Canada reads Elyon 2013

ONTARIO – Ray Wiltsey Middle School staffers have started a two-week school-wide reading program designed to engage students in discussion and critical thinking.

As part of the program, which ends Tuesday, every seventh- and eighth-grader had to read the children’s fantasy and mystery novel “The Dark Hills Divide,” which was authored by Patrick Carman.

School officials have also asked community members to read to students for an hour every morning and take part in a class discussion, which includes summarizing chapters, discussing vocabulary as well as asking and answering questions.

“Literature plays a very important part in a child’s educational development,” Principal William Corrette said of the program that began April 25.

“Unfortunately, many students have not discovered the love of reading for pleasure. Sadly, a recent random survey of our students revealed that less than 30 percent remember having been read to by their parents or family members during their early childhood years.”

Corrette said assigned reading is a part of a student’s education experience, but research reflects children who are read to during their childhood years are more likely to be successful in school and become fluent readers.

During a read-aloud session late last month, Mac Wolfe, Colony High School’s assistant principal, read to an eighth-grade class of about 30 students.

He stopped reading after almost every paragraph to ask students if they understood what was happening in the books and explaining to them why details are important.

Down the hall, in another classroom, Michelle Stotts was asking her seventh-graders to describe the main character Alexa Daley.

“In the beginning Alexa is portrayed to be by her dad’s side, she was courageous but not mischievous,” Stotts said. “And that’s exactly how these kids are and I think that’s a connection to them of how they are in real life.”

According to a teaser on the book, “12-year-old Alexa is spending another summer in Bridewell with her father. She’s also eager to finally solve the mystery of what lies beyond the immense walls that were built to keep out an unnamed evil that lurks in the forests and The Dark Hills – an evil the townspeople are still afraid of.”

“It’s like as a teenager you’re always being held inside all the time with rules and boundaries and you have to go to school,” seventh-grader Imani Martin said. “But you want to explore things and (when) you’re at this age all you want to do is see what goes on in the outside world.”

Stotts said she hopes the novel inspires students who do not like to read to find a book that interests them.

“And, hopefully, this will open their minds to different things that are out there,” she said.

Ray Wiltsey Middle, which is part of the Ontario-Montclair School District, is at 1450 E. G St.

Patrick Carman