School Launches Pilot Reading Class

Last year in May, principal Wynne Satterwhite approved a pilot reading class led by librarian Gordon Jack and teacher aid Ann Battle. The pilot reading class began this year and takes place during first period in a room next to the College and Career Center called the Reading Zone.

Using money from an anonymous educational grant and a private donation, Jack and Battle painted

and furnished the former conference room over the summer, converting it into the Reading Zone.

“We just thought this is the best room,” Jack said. “It’s one of the nicest rooms on campus because it looks out onto the quad, it’s got a lot of natural light, and so we just thought kids should be able to be in this room more.”

The room was created with the idea that it would become the location of the new reading class, in which students who are struggling in their English classes read books of their own choice for credit and a grade in addition to assigned reading from regular English classes.

Jack and Battle believe the class will encourage students to read for pleasure more frequently as well as make reading required material easier.

“It allows them to become better readers, to be more fluent in their reading, [to] sustain focus longer. Their vocabulary will increase, their interest in subjects will increase [and] they’ll learn about a broad range of whatever they’re interested in,” Battle said. “I think it helps raise the foundational knowledge when they come into a class.”

This year, the class consists of students from sophomore English skills classes recruited for the pilot, but will be open to all students next year. As Satterwhite, Jack, Battle and multiple students all agree, in high school it is difficult for students to find time to read outside of required reading. The reading class allows students who are signed up time to read the books they want to read.

“I love the class,” sophomore Odalis Rojas said, “I love reading, so when I got in I was really excited. I usually don’t have much time after school to read because of homework and other things I do, so I’m really glad I got in because I got time to read. It’s a silent class, so when you read you don’t have any distractions and that’s a major plus. Plus, Jack and Battle are amazing teachers.”

In addition to being a classroom during first period, the Reading Zone is available for use by all students. If someone wants to use the room for reading purposes, he or she must first inform librarian Christine Bridges and leave electronic devices such as laptops with her. The room has a strict no-electronics policy in order to maintain the quiet, serene environment.

Satterwhite approved the reading room and class because the room costs no money from the school and does not impact the staffing (Jack and Battle volunteer their services in supervising the class). Not only was creating the room devoid of obstacles, but Satterwhite believes that it will become a valuable resource.

“One of the things that I believe I’ve seen research on was that students who don’t read have more difficulty academically,” Satterwhite said. “You don’t have the same vocabulary, you don’t have the same ability to analyze and synthesize, and so it made a lot of sense for me to take some of our students who are pretty much non-readers—not that they can’t read, but that they don’t read—and provide space and provide the books and provide the resources to try it.”

Jack and Battle hope to expand the reading class to more periods once they can find a teacher to facilitate the class full-time.