Lake Ridge Elementary book club connecting students with stories


The school day may be over, but sounds of excitement can still be heard throughout the hallways of Lake Ridge Elementary, as students gather for an afterschool book club meeting in the library.

Students at Lake Ridge Elementary School take part in an afterschool book club, which has been run by the school’s media center specialist Maria LaBarbera and art instructor Ann Ferenbach for 13 years. PHOTO BY COLLIN BROOKS

For 13 years, Lake Ridge media center specialist Maria LaBarbera and art instructor Ann Ferenbach have hosted grade-specific book clubs as a way to encourage and excite students about reading. Once in the fall and once during the spring, students come together to gain a better perspective on what they are reading. During the meetings, students take part in activities that support and go along with the book, which can include guest speakers or fun activities that help bring the books to life.

Lake Ridge fourth-grader Lexie Davis has been an active participant in the book clubs during her time at Lake Ridge and said they are always enjoyable.

“I really like that we always do an activity that goes along with the book,” Davis said. “That helps me understand the book better.”

The most recent fourth-grade book club novel was called “The Trail.” After reading the book, the group learned camping tips from Boy Scouts to get an idea of the characters’ perspective. While they discussed the book, they were even able to go outside and make s’mores on a campfire.

LaBarbera said that bringing the books to life with activities and discussions are important factors in helping students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for reading.

“It’s really cool to see them have discussions about a book that they read because they have something in common since they all read the same story,” LaBarbera said. “It’s a little bit less structured than the classroom because the goal is pure enjoyment and they get to talk about how they experienced the story.”

During the second and third-grade book club, the students read “The Houdini Box”. After completing the text, students were treated to a magic show and were able to ask a magician questions. Lake Ridge third-grader Benji Leita said he had fun with the experience, especially seeing a magician escape from a straitjacket.

Lake Ridge kindergarteners visit with a dog from the Johnson City/Washington County animal shelter. The visit tied in with the dog-themed book they read in the book club.

“You read it in a book and then you’ll think it’s not going to happen or you won’t see it, but then you see it in real life and it’s really cool,” Leita said.

LaBarbera and Ferenbach are closing in on their 80th book club, and at the end of November they hosted the kindergartners and first-graders as they reviewed “Can I Be Your Dog?” Students read the story together and were treated with two visitors from the Johnson City/Washington County animal shelter. Students learned about pet adoption and a veterinarian came to talk about choosing the right pet for your family.

“They never know what the activity will be, so it’s always fun to see their reaction,” LaBarbera said. “They did not know dogs would be coming, so they got really excited when they showed up.”

And the hopes are that the students’ excitement will carry them to their next book.


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