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Reading Push Inspires Student’s Book Review Site

To motivate students to read for fun by tapping into their tech-savviness, East Grand Rapids Middle School English teacher Katherine Miller created an Instagram hashtag where students post photos of themselves with books after finishing them. The printed-out selfies now cover a wall in her classroom.

Inspired by her book-loving friends and selfie-loving teacher, seventh-grader Ella Goulet decided to take things a step further. She launched a web site (private for East Grand Rapids students) for posting book reviews and recommendations by and for her peers.

Students submit reviews about their favorite books to the site, with the ability to write comments below the posts. To receive and give recommendations, students have profiles of themselves, containing information on the kind of books they enjoy.

Review by Ella Goulet

Ella Goulet’s review on the book “Wintergirls,” by Laurie Halse Anderson, posted on the web site she created for her class, shows how East Grand Rapids students are sharing information on their favorite books.

Lia has been diagnosed with Anorexia, a horrible disease where she starves herself. When her former best friend dies due to overdose and too much bulimia, her ghost begins to haunt Lia and make her life much harder. She continues to get skinnier and skinnier as various events happen with her family, friends, and the horrible ghost always by her side.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read! It’s by far my favorite because of its action-packed plot and crazy topic of anorexia. I highly recommend it!

Beginning second semester 112 EGR seventh-grade students were expected to begin using the site in and outside of class.

“I want everyone to like reading much more and to like reading in general more. Then, everyone gets smarter,” said Ella, a ballerina who fits reading dystopian novels and mysteries into her schedule.

Ella, who is in Miller’s reading and writing workshop class, said Miller’s emphasis on reading got her thinking a lot about reading for fun. Her parents also serve as good sources for books and web sites: her mother, Holly Goulet is a librarian at the East Grand Rapids Branch of Kent District Library, and father, Steve Goulet, works in the information technology industry.

“I just had this idea and I thought it would be great,” said Ella, who has created web sites on organizing and ballet in the past.

‘Read as Much as Possible’

Miller started a huge literacy push with her students after attending the Teacher College of Columbia Reading and Writing Project last summer, which drove home the benefit of reading for enjoyment past elementary school.

“If you can do anything for a student, teaching them to read as much as possible is the thing to do for them,” she said. “It’s just about them finding books they love to read and that they want more of,” she said.

Students set goals for reading each quarter and some have read more than 50 books since September.

Seventh-grade student Ella Goulet and English teacher Katherine Miller Are inspiring students to read at East Grand Rapids Middle School
Seventh-grade student Ella Goulet and English teacher Katherine Miller Are inspiring students to read at East Grand Rapids Middle School

“Every single student of my 112 has read at least six books this year,” Miller said. “I’m very impressed with how much these kids are reading.”

Miller also was awarded a grant from the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation to fund more books, bookshelves and beanbags forher classroom and bring in guest authors.

Students said they look forward to using the site.

I think it’s cool that Ella made a web site for the whole class,” said seventh-grader Lydia Glowney, who has read 53 books since September. “I’m looking forward to looking around the web site and seeing what else people are reading in different classes.”


Top Books for Teens

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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