By: Marc Winger
When Carl Goldman, manager of KBET, Santa Clarita Valley’s local radio station, called to suggest that our 4th through 6th grade students do book reports on the air, I jumped at the chance. Goldman and a local bookstore, An Affiar with Books, had developed the proposal. I knew a great idea when I heard it and took the suggestion to our teachers.
The idea was enthusiastically received by the Sulphur Springs Language Arts Committee. Teachers suggested, however, that a better idea would be for students to give critical evaluations of children’s literature. We decided each of the district’s seven elementary schools would be assigned a month during which it would select students for on-air book reviews. Every Tuesday a student would phone in a review at 8:15- during “drive-time,” the station’s peak listening hour.
Teachers have chosen various ways to select student reviewers. Some incorporate the book review as an oral language activity. Others assign students or use a lottery system. Still others let students decide who should represent them on the radio. Students may profile books from their school’s core literature list or from books featured at An Affair with Books.
After the deejay’s introduction, the student reviewer begins with a basic script. Next comes a personal opinion about the book, supporting reasons for his or her view, and examples. Finally, the reviewer explains why young readers should follow his or her recommendations. Each review lasts two or three minutes. As compensation, students get to choose a book
from the bookstore’s shelves.
Although most students follow this framework, they have some flexibility in their approach. For example, the following is a 6th grade team effort:
Lindsay: Good Morning KBET listeners! We’re 5th and 6th grade students from Canyon Spring Elementary School. I am Lindsay with my friend Theresa and Eva. Hi Eva!
Eva: We read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and illustrated by Tasha Tudor. It was 311 pages and written in 1911, and it has been a children’s classic ever since. Go for it Theresa!
Theresa: The story has been made into a full-length motion picture several times. The novel is about a young, Mary Lennox. Who is neglected by her parents and becomes an orphan while living in India. She is sent to England to live with her uncle in a large English mansion called Misselthwaite. Back to you Lindsay!
Lindsay: Mary meets many people at Misselthwaite. Some are happy and friendly, and others rude and bossy. Misselthwaite is a dark gloomy place filled with secret passages. Her uncle is a sad man who seems to hold deep dark secrets. Tell us more Eva!
Eva: At Misselthwaite she learns many lessons, and has difficulty adjusting to life in England. She too discovers a secret garden that she brings to life with the help of new friend Dickon and her secret cousin. We have revealed too much already but, we do recommend that you read this book for a heart warming reading experience. Thank you for listening to our book review of The Secret Garden!
The book review program, in its second successful year, will continue as long as the bookstore chooses to advertise on the radio. The idea has also spread to a neighboring district. In addition, we’ve found other ways to connect our curriculum with radio advertiser’s services. For example, students who study electricity in science have provide safety and energy conservation tips after the local utility company ad spots. And this spring, kindergarteners and 1st grader will discuss water safety in conjunction with a pool construction company’s ad.
Who benefits from this community partnership? Everyone! The radio station, which has developed a creative advertisement for its client, has a positive community –based feature every Tuesday. The bookstore associates its name with a quality effort and attracts new customers. Both the bookstore and the station receive the benefits of advertising in various school and district publications. Local newspapers have also highlighted the event. But the district, the schools and the students benefit most. We have the opportunity to demonstrate the abilities of our student to the entire Santa Clarita Valley. Every student who has reviewed a book has been poised, articulate, and critically informative. When the public hears these budding, Siskels and Eberts, they have to be impressed with reading, writing, and speaking abilities of students in the Sulpher Springs School District.
The latest report I received was from a teacher who was in line at the market and heard two moms talking about the morning review. What could be a better indicator of success.
Listen every weekday at 9:10am, tune in as KHTS hosts 4th Grade Books Reports!