A 5th grader turns the whole class into a book club

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – Maybe you belong to a book club at your local library or follow a top celebrity’s reading recommendations. But Oprah isn’t the only one with a book club. There’s a fifth grader in Plymouth who turned her whole class into readers.

“Basically, all my free time was spent reading and I found a lot of great shows because of that,” Jane Gottschalk said.

Jane, 11, is a voracious reader. She can be seen with a book at home, on vacation and of course at St. Michael’s School in Plymouth.

“Mystery, certainly. Fancy. Anything fictional, I absolutely love it,” Jane said.

Jane has a love for reading that she just can’t keep to herself.

“To this day, I love it. And I wanted everyone to feel that too,” Jane said.

So, just before spring break, Jane asked her teacher if she could start a book club using her books at home.

“It meant so much more to me when she said, ‘I have a book chosen for everyone. I said, ‘Everyone in the class?’ She said, “Yeah. Even you, Mrs. Kolter,” said St. Michael’s Grade 5 teacher Mary Beth Kolter. “So we just went with it.”

Here’s how it works: Jane lends a book to each of her 17 classmates and changes it when they’re done.

This innovative idea produces surprising results.

“I feel like not everyone was a reader at first, but now that everyone has a book they love, they still want to read,” said Grade 5 student Lainey Rader .

Even reluctant readers found themselves turning the pages.

“Before Jane started the book club, I usually didn’t read at all,” said 5th grader Lucas Aquila.

Lucas is now addicted to the Virginia Mystery series; something Jane borrowed from her brother.

“I thought I wouldn’t read unless I had to, but these books interest me so much that they made me want to read. And I thought I would never like to read up to Jane,” Lucas said.

Ms. Kolter expects to see improvements across the board in the year-end assessments. These children don’t just read, they write reading reports and hold in-depth discussions.

“I love listening to them talking to each other, saying, ‘Omigosh, I really like this book, do you have another one like this?’ It’s just the cutest thing to see,” Ms. Kolter said.

May 27 is their last day of school and Ms. Kolter thinks they will continue reading all summer. This class spent twenty minutes of free time each day reading.

“I love those twenty minutes because I mean it’s an opportunity to learn other books, explore other books, and have fun,” said 5th grader Kayla McGowan.

In her 25 years of teaching, Ms. Kolter has tried every trick to get children to read. From pushing the classics, to trending titles. This year, it only took Jane.

“I like books, but I only know a certain number. She knows all the books,” Ms. Kolter said.

“Based on my own experience, I recommended a book to everyone. And I hope they all really enjoyed them,” Jane said.

Suggested stories from a child who cares.

“I really enjoyed doing this for the class and hopefully some people here will also recommend books to people they know and it can grow that way,” Jane said.

By the way, Jane wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Looking for books for your young readers to try this summer? Here is Jane’s list of favorite book recommendations:

Read with Jane!

SD Smith’s Green Ember

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

The Remarkable Voyage of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Geimenhart

Guardian of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Book Collector by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

JK Rowling’s Ickabog

The Penderwicks of Jeanne Birdsall

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Copyright 2021 WNDU. All rights reserved.

Irene B. Bowles