For six weeks, starting October 6, participating classrooms across the world read a book, different for each grade grouping, aloud. Each week has designated chapters to be read. Students then share their thoughts about the book and its characters with their distant partner classrooms through a safe social media platform.
"We are helping them with their English, and in a way we are learning from them as well," said WHS senior, Jenny Wilson. And because the Canadian students are in middle school, Wilson added that it’s requiring them to be more mature when they discuss the emotional and relationship themes in the book. “It’s requiring us to be more mature when we talk to them and dealing with hard emotions like adults do,” she said.
The GRA project believes that reading books can be a very personal experience, and there is a tremendous impact when students understand that the experience they have with a book may be similar to an experience another child had in another place.
WHS Senior, Madisen Baldwin agrees. "I really like how we can talk to people in Canada and be able to discuss mutual things like the book. It’s also interesting that things we don't think about may be a major concern for them. The students always ask us questions about Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood and if it’s scary living next to a volcano. This helped me realize that we live in a completely different culture but we are all connected in some way.”
The class collected Washington items to send to their new Canadian friends which includes Mt. St. Helens ash and photos, sand from Cottonwood Beach and apples. “Students are also feeling a new appreciation for what they have here in the Pacific Northwest,” Grant added.
“Having book discussions online is very interesting and lets you see what everyone’s thinking,” Matt Grant said. “And we see that kids are just kids where ever they live. It shows how literature can really bring people together.”