Sixth-graders Make Their Newbery Picks

This group of judges gave several thumbs-up to the novel “Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The book was selected for a Mock Newbery Honor by Lowell Middle students
This group of judges gave several thumbs-up to the novel “Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The book was selected for a Mock Newbery Honor by Lowell Middle students

Natalie Robinson likes to read in the morning, and when she really likes what she’s reading, you’d better make way.

“I walk around when I get into a book,” she explained. “I feel like I can’t hold myself (still) because of the suspense.”

Charlee Dalstra and Brena Lacey admit they are not as avid readers as Natalie or some of their other sixth-grade classmates at Lowell Middle School. But when they do read, they lean toward non-fiction.

“In my opinion, I like books that are true,” Charlee said.

Book lovers and those with opinions were welcome for the middle school’s second annual Mock Newbery club, which tackled many of the same books as their adult counterparts. The voluntary club of some 100 sixth-graders wrapped up this week as students voted at nearly the same time the real Newberys were being announced.

Last year, the project was funded by a private donor and a grant from the Lowell Education Foundation to cover the cost of hardcover books and other materials. This year the private donor stepped up again, and the Lowell Rotary awarded a grant for $1,200.

Each student Newbery judge completed a five-question assessment of his or her top two books. After roundtable discussions with others who chose the same top two, each judge cast a vote. Student judges chose “The War I Finally Won” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for the Newbery Medal, and “Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan for the Newbery Honor.

Natalie Robinson’s assessment of the novel “One Amazing Elephant” included this: “The images in your head are so real!”
Natalie Robinson’s assessment of the novel “One Amazing Elephant” included this: “The images in your head are so real!”

Books As Innovation

Teacher Margaret Tuori said the inspiration for holding the Mock Newberys came from Kurt Stroh, a Northview teacher who spearheaded the program for fourth-graders in that district.

For Lowell’s effort, support came from Kent District Library’s Englehardt and Cascade branches staff, teacher blogs and Goodreads Mock Newberys.

This year, a handful of district adults served as “experts” for each book and met with students during non-class time. Sally Pla, author of “Someday Birds,” served as an expert and Skyped with students.

Assistant Superintendent Nate Fowler also was a book expert. He met with about 30 students over lunch to discuss “Scar Island” by Dan Gemienhart. Fowler had prepared a list of questions aimed at keeping the conversation flowing, he said, but students had the discussion well in hand.

“It was probably the funnest thing I’ve done at school this year,” he said. “We had about 25 minutes, and it was engaging the whole time. We got into the characters, and how the setting played a role. … We just had some very in-depth conversation with 12-year-old readers.

“I think it validates the research about how giving students current titles and choices about what to read really does engage them.”

CONNECT

2018 Newbery Honorees

SNN article: Northview Mock Newberys

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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