Forest Oaks Elementary adds pet hamster

Students at Forest Oaks Elementary School enjoy visiting with the school's pet hamster, Humphrey, who arrived after Forest Oaks Book Club members started reading "The World According to Humphrey" by Betty Birney.

Students at Forest Oaks Elementary School enjoy visiting with the school’s pet hamster, Humphrey, who arrived after Forest Oaks Book Club members started reading “The World According to Humphrey” by Betty Birney.

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

CHELSEA–A fictional hamster named Humphrey has generated much excitement at Forest Oaks Elementary School this fall.

Nearly 300 students and teachers involved in the newly formed Forest Oaks Book Club, along with students’ parents and community leaders, have spent the last month reading about the adventures of Humphrey, a class pet hamster, in “The World According to Humphrey” by Betty Birney.

“The book club has a two-fold purpose,” Forest Oaks Principal Dr. Resia Brooks said. “One purpose was to create a community of readers within our building and to have students interacting with the same book to develop discussion and excitement. We wanted to create a shared reading experience.”

Students, parents, teachers and others involved in the book club started reading the book in early November and have until Dec. 1 to complete the book.

“Each day, the students are presented with a trivia question about the book,” Brooks said. “The reading of the book has also inspired the media specialist, Jill Haglund, to purchase the school’s own Humphrey the hamster. The students have enjoyed welcoming the furry addition to the school and are excited about being a part of this month’s book club.”

Lori Harris’ children, Avery and Drew, are both in the book club.

“Part of Avery’s and Drew’s homework every night is to read, but joining the Forest Oaks Book Club and reading ‘The World According to Humphrey’ has given them something to look forward to every night instead of just reading for homework,” Harris said. “They couldn’t wait to finish homework after school so that we could find out more about Humphrey. They loved seeing ‘Humphrey’ at school.”

Harris said Avery and Drew also looked forward to the daily trivia questions.

“I liked reading the book together with my family,” Avery said. “My favorite part was when Humphrey shot Clem with a rubber band.”

Drew said he liked reading a new book, and said, “I learned that it takes a lot of responsibility to take care of a pet.”

Harris said she and Avery take turns reading the book aloud.

“They have already asked if we are going to join another book club, and Avery has checked out a new book about Humphrey at the library,” Harris said. “I’m thankful to be part of a school that invites parents and students to participate in experiences like this.”

Brooks said “The World According to Humphrey” is suitable for students on different reading levels, making it a good choice for the club since members range from kindergarten to fifth grade.

“We chose that book because the book has a lot of character lessons, and it lends itself to discussions about making good choices, being kind, being a good friend and helping others,” Brooks said. “It’s considered a high-interest book.”

A book club discussion and celebration will be held at the school Dec. 4.

“Throughout the day, students will give me their updates about where they are in the book,” Brooks said. “The kids love visiting Humphrey in the media center. Some will sit beside her cage and read to her.”

Brooks said several children told her they want their own hamster for Christmas this year.

Those interested in joining the book club may do so next semester. The club’s next book will be “Friendship according to Humphrey,” the sequel to “The World According to Humphrey.”

“The main premise of the club is to create a community of readers and excitement about reading,” Brooks said. “Books are the windows to the world, and books help us grow.”