Spellbound students embrace reading program

A book club at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Primary Sefton has caused a groundswell of student interest in reading, and in a series that has stood the test of time.

The school’s Reading Rocks program allows students to share what they are reading with their peers in a book club-like format at lunchtimes. Each week, one session is held for students in Kindergarten to Year 2 and another for students in Years 3 to 6.

Participants have reviewed everything from cookbooks and adventure novels to those with princess theme and from author Andy Griffiths’ Treehouse series. So many students chose to review books from J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series that the groups held a trivia competition on the books last term.

Year 6 student Jacob Nasr and Year 3 student Joshua Nguyen were champions from the junior and senior Reading Rocks groups. They successfully answered as many as possible of 25 questions about the Harry Potter series, which introduced an alternate magical reality replete with a school for young witches and wizards to millions when they were first published 20 years ago.

They recalled details of the plot and characters with ease including the magical properties of gillyweed, and who visited wizard bank Gringotts with Harry in the guise of another person while he worked to discover how to destroy arch-villain Lord Voldemort.

I could never go to Hogwarts or live in a tree house. There is that element of imagination which is sometimes lost in the curriculum.

– Antonella Mazzucco

Jacob said Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was his favourite book of the series.

“In my opinion it’s the start of when Harry is getting ready to defeat Voldemort, because he resurrects with Harry’s blood. It’s very detailed and I like the challenges they give him and the storyline to it. Hat’s off to J.K. Rowling for writing them all.”

Joshua said he preferred the first book.

“I liked The Sorcerer’s Stone because of the adventure,” he said. “I like how the mail just comes out of everywhere and Harry is excited but Uncle Vernon isn’t.”

Year 2 student Syrena Dennis is now reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the script for a stage play about a grown-up Harry and the unwanted legacy he has left his son. She said it was different reading a script, but enjoyable.

“What I like about this is that it tells you who’s talking,” she said. “It’s really different to a book.”

Classmate Gabriella Haddad has introduced a personal favourite to the Reading Rocks group with a review of The Secret Kingdom by Rosie Banks. The book is also part of a series. “It is about Ellie, Summer and Jasmine who are going to a wedding,” she said. “I like this book because it’s just so funny.”

Assistant Principal Antonella Mazzucco said it was the second year of the program which was introduced to lift students’ writing performance.  A high percentage of the school’s students and parent community count English as an additional language.

“It was really born out of a need to increase literacy at the school in a fun way,” Mrs Mazzucco said.

“There is such a focus on structure these days, and Reading Rocks has allowed for more creative expression. The books that seem to be attracting the students at Sefton are highly imaginative texts about the things that could never happen. I could never go to Hogwarts or live in a treehouse, so there is that element of imagination which is sometimes lost in the curriculum.”

Through word of mouth, the number of students bringing books to school has increased. Some student in Years 1 and 2 have brought home-made books they have created with their parents to Reading Rocks.

“To me that is fabulous because it shows that parents were connecting with the reading process,” Mrs Mazucco said. “In an era where children use devices so heavily it’s really lovely to see that the old tradition of children flicking through a book hasn’t died.”

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