New friends coming together over a good book

Sharing a special book with a friend makes reading, and learning, a lot more fun. Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES teacher Susan DeJohn and her students at Brockport High School found a way to multiply the fun. They shared their book with dozens of new friends, hundreds of miles away.

The students were participants in the Global Read Aloud Project, an initiative created to connect young readers across 86 different countries. Through the project, DeJohn connected with dual language third-grade teacher Karen Peterson in Woodstock, Illinois. The two decided to work together to help their students learn how to be more understanding and kind. Reading would be the personal connection that made it happen.

Both classes chose to read “A Boy Called BAT,” by Elana K. Arnold about a boy on the autism spectrum and his relationship with a baby skunk. The students initially used a video to introduce themselves. They then exchanged traditional pen pal letters to get to know each other better. All learned that they have a lot in common, even if they communicate differently and have diverse learning abilities. 

After reading the book, each class prepared a short, multiple choice quiz. They hoped to chat with their new friends to see how much they had all learned, but that would require a real-time, face-to-face meeting. DeJohn made another connection, this time with BOCES 2 Distance Learning Specialist Donna Farren. Together, they planned a live video conference as a final treat for all the readers. On the big day, students at both locations gathered in front of cameras. Questions were asked and answered; patience and sensitivity were on display, along with enthusiasm and humor. As the friends parted with smiles and waves, the intervening 600 miles seemed to disappear.