Fostering Life-Long Readers

Last Friday I had the pleasure of conversing with four charming third grade boys about a novel we read titled, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It was First Friday Book Club and every third grade boy was paired up with teachers and administrators (Henry Smyth was able to participate this month!) to discuss the book they had chosen to read. Armed with sticky notes, the boys elaborated on setting, plot twists, and favorite scenes. We laughed about the ridiculousness of two children living undiscovered for days in an art museum and pondered the motives for running away from home in the first place. It was such a pleasure and another reminder that while it is fun to read a good book, it is double the fun to discuss the book with friends! Third, fourth, and fifth grades all offer opportunities for the boys to participate in a book club, sometimes during the day and sometimes before school. For some of our boys, it is worth giving up one day of early morning football on the turf to talk about a good book. On Thursday morning this week, fourth grade boys were heading towards the library and makerspace room before school. One boy remarked to the other, “It is SO hard to choose between going to makerspace or book club this morning!!” Music to our ears that creating and exploring literature both rate so highly with a ten year old!


Everywhere you wander in the lower school there are books being consumed by our boys. Picture books, novels, reference books, short stories, all have a place on shelves that line classrooms, hallways, and our library. We recently had our annual book fair. Many parent volunteers would note the enthusiasm registered by every boy who was able to make a purchase. However, it doesn’t always have to be a new book that gets our boys grinning with excitement. Our annual “book swap” in the fall saw thousands of books change hands from reader to reader. With the addition of a new librarian this year comes new ideas about how the space is designed and used. Look for awesome changes to our library space starting this spring and continuing over the summer. Now that Mrs. Ward has had several months working in the room, she is brimming over with ideas for reading nooks, more assessable leveled readers, and a general opening of “space”.


Another new addition to our faculty this year is Jen Schmerling, our learning specialist. Jen has thrown herself into the job, and it took no time for both teachers and students to value her expertise. She has been working closely with Mr. Holt, our reading specialist, to look at how leveled readers can play a larger role with our youngest boys. Getting the “just right” book into the hands of an emerging reader is so critical for building self-confidence and fluency. Our first grade boys proudly select specific books each day to read at home with families. They love the ability to choose what appeals to them and know they can handle the sentences and vocabulary independently.


Last week ended our annual “Read-a-thon”. 97% of boys in the lower school signed on to read books, calculate their minutes of reading, and raise money for a good cause. This year money will go to the Baltimore Hunger Project, an organization started by a Gilman parent which gives bags of food to school children who need support over the weekend. The boys have been so excited to support a cause that directly benefits children in our city. Hopefully they will be inspired to not only love reading but love giving to the community as well.


Whether the emerging reader, or the older boy who has devoured the Harry Potter series for years, our students know the joys of reading. For some boys reading is like breathing, for others it still gives them fits and starts, however it is our sincere hope that the experiences they have at Gilman lower school will foster life-long readers.

NYT Article About the Benefits of Reading to Children


I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” based on recent school events.



  • If you are in Kindergarten- Did you make a picture of a boat using shapes this week? How do you divide a shape into two equal parts and know that they are equal?
Kingergarten boys exploring animal skulls in science with Mr. James.
  • If you are in Prep-One- What did you learn this week about telling time? How is your “non-fiction” book writing coming along? Can you write a story that includes character, setting, problem, and solution? What is a contraction?
  • If you are in First Grade- What tall tale did you read with your reading group? What is your part in the tall tale play?
  • If you are in Second Grade- What was the moral of the novel Tornado? What are some thing you learned in science about surface temperatures?
  • If you are in Third Grade- Did you find any of the ERB tests difficult this year? Do you feel that you improved? What National Park are you Skyping with next week and how does Matthew L know the guest speaker/park ranger?
  • If you are in Fourth Grade- It is “play season” in fourth grade. What is your play about? What are you enjoying about your role? What type of Maryland water fowl are you creating in 3D in art class? Did you enjoy some time in the morning creating things in Makerspace?


Grade 4 week in Makerspace ended with a group making “lightsabers” with simple circuits!
  • If you are in Fifth Grade- What was the theme of the BSO concert on Thursday? Did you enjoy the guest opera singer? Did you find any of the ERB tests difficult? How are lesson in bridge building going?
Testing suspension bridges in fifth grade science.
Dr. Webster captures a fifth grade recess “moment” on an amazing spring-like day!

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