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Book club joins students of all grades

| Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005

The Highcliff Elementary School Book of the Month Club has opened a new chapter in the school's Language to Literacy Project to promote literacy and communication across all grade levels and curricular areas.

The staff at the elementary school in Ross has chosen a variety of books that will serve as a springboard for story discussion, writing and development of higher-level thinking and reasoning skills.

Students in kindergarten through the sixth grade will read the same book and incorporate it into other areas of the curriculum, such as music, art and physical education. Emphasis is placed on unifying the entire student body, as well as members of the school community, Principal Darlene Tartaglione said.

"The program is wonderful. It integrates art into the curriculum and unifies the entire building, including the community, where we have a lot of senior citizens, parents and grandparents volunteering," she said.

Students pair up in a buddy program with sixth-graders working with kindergartners, fifth-graders working with first-graders and second-, third- and fourth- graders working together as a group. Each pair of students meet once a month to complete a project related to the current book of the month.

"It's exciting for both groups of students," first-grade teacher Sherrie Kovach said. "The younger kids love to be read to and talk about the characters' traits, feelings and the settings of the plots, while it gives the older ones a sense of pride to have the younger students look up to them."

The older students have the chance to be "teachers" and set an example for the younger ones, fifth-grade teacher Karen Bordt said. "The fifth-graders try to question the younger kids about the characters and plot of the book as opposed to giving them the answers," she said.

In September, after reading "The Raft" by Jim La Marche, students used their artistic talents to create a pop-up book consisting of different scenes from the story, Kovach said.

This month, first- and fifth-grade "buddies" made a scarecrow in conjunction with the book for October, "Scarecrow" by Cynthia Rylant.

The students' book of the month artwork is displayed in the school entryway so the entire school community can view it and see what the different grades have done.

Highlights of the project are visits by authors of children's books and two schoolwide field trips to the North Shore that will take place in conjunction with books of the month.

In December, after reading Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express," students will take a trip to the Carnegie Science Center's Omnimax Theater to see the movie. In May, after reading James Buckley's book "Roberto Clemente," about the Pittsburgh Pirates player, students will attend an afternoon Pirates baseball game at PNC Park.

Florence Biros, author of the book "Dog Jack" will visit with students in February; in April, Dr. Robert Madison will present each student with a signed copy of his book, "Ned, Fred & Friend."

Other books of the month are: November -- "Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot" by Margot Theis Raven; January -- "Stranger in the Woods" by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick; February -- "Picture Book of Harriet Tubman" by David Adler; March -- "When Marian Sang" by Pam Munoz Ryan; April -- "The Beetle Alphabet Book" by Jerry Pallotta; and June -- "The Relatives Came" by Cynthia Rylant.

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