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When Monsters Call and Teachers Read, Students Listen

Global Read Aloud Reaches Millions

The shared love of a book was on display in English teacher Shantel VanderGalien’s eighth-grade honors class as she read aloud from “A Monster Calls.” Creating a monster voice with a plummy British accent, VanderGalien revealed her theatrical side.

The young teens, seated in a circle around VanderGalien, interjected with observations like “foreshadowing!” and “simile!” as they listened closely to the narrative.

VanderGalien is devoting about 15 minutes of class time for several days over the next few weeks to read the award-winning book, written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay, to her Wyoming Junior High School students. Riveted, they recently reacted to a chapter-ending cliffhanger at the end of class as if it was /// torture to stop. “Ahhh! No!” they cried, realizing they would have to wait until the next day to know what happened next.

“Everybody likes to be read to,” VanderGalien said.

VanderGalien’s class is among more than 2 million students in 25,000 locations throughout the world signed up for Global Read Aloud, a project started in 2010 with the goal of using one book to connect the world. The premise is to read a book aloud to children during a six-week period and make as many global connections, via online tools, as possible, sharing the book and thoughts. This year, middle school groups had three books to choose from, including “A Monster Calls” — a novel that’s hard to keep on the shelves, VanderGalien said.

“What I wasn’t able to anticipate is the depth of my students’ love for the story,” she said. “Every single time I stop reading, they are like, ‘What! You can’t stop there!'”

Global Read Aloud connects students around the world through the shared love of books, like “A Monster Calls”

Picture This

VanderGalien, a 14-year-teacher, said she’s learned over the years why students of all ages connect so well with being read to. It’s made her realize the need to teach vocal inflection and pauses in connection with dialogue and punctuation.

“Students say, ‘I can’t see it in my head when I read, but when you read to me, I can see it,'” she said. “More of how I teach grammar is now embedded in us investigating the reading.”

Students said they enjoy VanderGalien’s dramatic reading.

“I can see it a lot better when she reads it because she does all the voices,” said eighth-grader Aubray Palma. “She is pretty much like a little kid. How she talks like the monster does, that’s what I see in my head.”

Neveah Morofsky said she loves the raspy, scary voice of the monster and the imagination involved.

“I’m a really big reader,” the eighth-grader said. “I read a lot, but it’s a lot of fun having Mrs. VanderGalien read to us. We are thinking of getting her an alphabet rug like we had in kindergarten.

“I really like her reading to us because she does all the voices. She has a lot of fun with it and so do we.”

“We get to learn together as more of a class,” added student Logan Boukma. “For us to be read to, we can understand it better. (VanderGalien) uses cool accents to make it more enjoyable and relatable.”

Another goal is challenging students to summarize, determine themes, analyze texts and complete other required standards using “A Monster Calls.” Students will also use the book in argumentative writing.

Students sit in a circle to listen the teacher Shantel VanderGalien read

A Global Book Club

Global Read Aloud also has a big-picture piece involving universal themes. VanderGalien is hoping great conversations result in connecting online with students in different parts of the world through platforms like Write About.com, Flipogram.com andGoogle Classroom.

“I really emphasize having a voice in global citizenship. When they start evaluating the themes in the novel and seeing that people halfway around the world are getting the same messages, that’s when global themes become more concrete.”

Students said they look forward to hearing what other students think of the book.

“Everybody gets a different experience from the book and we can talk about it and see where everyone is coming from,” Neveah said.

“They say you should put yourself in other people’s shoes,” Aubray said. “We get to do that and experience what other people think.”


Author Patrick Ness website


Neveah Morofsky and Jovany Martinez take notes about “A Monster Calls” to consider during the read-aloud

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. 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 or email Erin.


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