Reading clubs teach children to love books

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS

Special to the Reporter

NORTH SHELBY – Grammar school students at Westminster School at Oak Mountain will get a special treat this summer when they visit with their principal and discuss with her and their peers a book they’ve read.

“This is a long-standing tradition at our school,” Westminster lower school Coordinator Teresa Eyrich said. “I’m a parent, too, and I’ve seen how this encourages my children to read. They get to be with their friends in a learning environment during the summer. We have a large turnout and it’s great fun.”

Lori Jill Keeler is principal of the lower school at Westminster, comprised of kindergarten through sixth grade. Each class is invited to read an assigned book and come to her home to discuss over light refreshments what they learned.

And Keeler has included a book club date for parents as well.

“It’s enjoyable to do this,” Keeler said. “I enjoy having the boys and girls in my home, and I enjoy instilling in them a love for reading.”

Keeler said there are two purposes for the clubs.

“First, we talk about books and encourage the boys and girls to read,” she said. “I think it’s important to associate reading with pleasure so that the boys and girls will continue to read.

“Second, this is relationship-building. I want the children to know that we care about them even outside the regular classroom.”

Keeler has been at the school for 14 years and for 12 as principal. She’s sponsored the book clubs for the past 10 years.

“Last summer we had 143 children to participate, which is close to half of our enrollment,” she said. “It’s grown over the years. We know some boys and girls are on vacation or at camp, but others have made this part of their summer tradition.”

Keeler admitted she gave the parents a challenge with Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” but she enjoys discussions with them as well.

Keeler said the idea for book clubs began with her own love for books. It’s not surprising that she majored in English literature and secondary education in college.

A West Virginia native, she earned her bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan and her master’s degree in integrated curriculum and instruction from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.

The clubs will meet the week of July 10.

The reading assignments are as follows:

  • Rising first grade: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo
  • Rising second grade girls: “The King’s Equal” by Katherine Paterson
  • Rising second grade boys: “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling
  • Rising third grade: “Because of Winn Dixie” by DiCamillo
  • Rising fourth grade:” Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry
  • Rising fifth grade: “Old Yeller” by Fred Gipson
  • Rising sixth grade: “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
  • Parents: “A Tale of Two Cities” by Dickens

Westminster School at Oak Mountain is affiliated with Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church and is located off Alabama Highway 119 at 5080 Cahaba Valley Trace in Birmingham.

For more information, visit WestminsterKnights.org.