GALLIPOLIS — River Valley High School English AP junior and seniors gathered in the Riverside Room of Bossard Memorial Library Thursday with the goal of literary discussion and fostering positive relationships outside their peer groups.
“I continue to be impressed with our kids,” said RVHS Principal T.R. Edwards. “Every time they rise to the challenge when we give them something and ask them to think and explore different things. They challenge themselves and they want to have a higher level of thinking. We’re impressed with the community members and how they’ve stepped up. We love when we’re able to develop partnerships for and with our students and not just with entities like the library but others. It’s about reaching out and making connections.”
“It’s cool to see all the effort and what all they had to bring in and what they thought of with what books they read,” said RVHS teacher Kaleigh Cox. “I was surprised with some of the book choices our students made and I don’t think we had any doubled up stories, save maybe one book between a junior and a senior. Otherwise, they were all different.”
The reading program has been dubbed Novels with Neighbors, said teachers, and is intended to promote “meaningful academic discourse.” Students and guests were asked to read a novel and then gather in the library to discuss life lessons, themes and ideas covered in the works. Students and guests were encouraged to relate texts back to their own lives, current events and other such connections.
“This stems back from an AP training that we attended several years ago in Columbus,” said RVHS teacher Aaron Walker. “The AP teacher there talked about a similar program he did with his students. The premise was simple. He simply wanted to provide a space for students to be able to dialogue and discuss works of significance from multiple perspectives and provide an informal atmosphere to do so. So, shamelessly we have taken that idea and tried to structure ours the same. Our goal is to get students to dialogue about complex issues and important things. We believe it’s good for students to be able to have face-to-face interactions outside their (school) peer groups and be lifelong learners.”
Junior Shay Sanger shared the book “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood with her older sister Kayley Sanger and developed a board game in part to discuss the themes of the story. The fictional book focuses on a dystopian future in which the US government is overthrown and a totalitarian regime emerges. Women are indoctrinated and forced to bare children among a number of other activities after having their rights stripped. The book serves as the foundation for a popular Emmy award-winning television show sharing the text’s name.
“She got me to read something that wasn’t for school,” joked Kayley about her post-undergraduate coursework. “I don’t typically read fiction…The book has a lot of shocking parts to it.”
“It’s like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” said Shay. “It’s a piece that makes you think about society and things that could happen if you’re not careful. There were a lot of parts I didn’t like in it because it talks a lot about (women as slaves).”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.