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Midvale Journal

Midvale Middle School’s library programs enrich students’ reading, writing

Dec 01, 2016 02:52PM ● By Julie Slama

Midvale Middle School students learn how to develop a short story through the library’s “Writers’ Wanted” program. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Sixth grader Yash Archarya has been regularly attending Midvale Middle School’s “Writers’ Wanted” program this fall, because he likes to learn about writing. 

“I love the way Mrs. Anderson teaches — simple and straightforward,” he said. “I have learned more in-depth how to develop characters and how draw the characters in. I’ve created a plot line and an outline for a short story.”

While many Canyons School District middle schools offer book discussion groups, Midvale Middle also offers the writing club. Former librarian Becca Anderson began the program two years ago and current librarian Brenda Anderson now runs “Writers’ Wanted.”

“I’ve invited anyone who wants to learn how to write a short story or novel to come,” Anderson said. “We only have a short time during lunch, so we concentrate on different parts of the writing process.”

Anderson, who has taught high school English, said that the allure of the club is that everyone is welcome to participate in the non-judgmental activity.

“There are no restraints. It’s giving them a voice to their ideas in a non-assessed environment and it gives a chance for kids to be creative and have fun,” she said.

Already this year, students have learned about how to organize their writing into an introduction, setting, conflict, challenges and a climax. They have studied, and watched video clip to learn about characters. They’ve outlined conflict analysis and even began writing their opening paragraphs, Anderson said, adding that she hopes by the end of the year, they will share their stories with the group.

“They’ve learned that the hook in the first paragraph is one of the most important parts of the story and have seen catchy examples of well-known writers. They’re learning how to brainstorm, draft, revise, edit and write again,” she said. 

Anderson said that although the program is not tied into the students’ core curriculum, it still will benefit their writing skills.

“Anytime you write, it helps you become a better writer. Learning the writing process will open doors. Learning to write will help them with the vehicle of success in school, which can lead them to better jobs that can change lives,” she said.

Yash’s twin sister, Mahika, said that through “Writers’ Wanted,” she has seen a change in her writing.

“My story has become better and my writing has improved,” she said. “I know now where to put the rising action and conflict. Before, I had it in the wrong place.”

Mahika and Yash both attend “Pages and Popcorn,” the book discussion group that Anderson runs.

Each month, students will read a book of a different genre that Anderson choses, such as “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” for mystery and “Red Queen” for fantasy.

“There’s definitely some books I wouldn’t pick to read, but I’m learning about them. This month, we’re reading, ‘The Boy at the Top of the Mountain,’ and I’m not into historical fiction, but this is so interesting,” Mahika said.

Yash, who read “Miss Peregrine,” said he was unaware of the book until “Pages and Popcorn.”

“Mrs. Anderson picks out pretty good books and then makes good discussion questions, such as to look at something from a different perspective or what else could have happened,” he said.

All the while discussing the book, students munch on popcorn during their lunch period. 

“We operate the book club like an adult book club, examining questions and looking at the book in different ways. These kids are smart, so it’s a real book club environment. It’s good for them just to relax and read for fun. It’s a nice break from reading for school, plus studies show readers make better thinkers,” Anderson said.

After the holidays, they will read a selection in graphic novels, romance, science fiction, realistic fiction and non-fiction. 

“Research shows the more familiar kids are with genres, the more they will check out books in that area,” she said.

With the overdue library fines students pay, Anderson puts the funds toward the club. She purchases books and prizes for raffles.

There’s also a book discussion group for staff and faculty, reading the same books a month before the students.

Anderson also has the “Information Spies” program where students learn how the library is organized by finding a book for a small prize, such as a mechanical pencil. Students also play bingo for books and prizes during another lunch period.

Anderson said the programs are designed to help students learn and enjoy the library.

“I go to the library at lunch because it’s fun and there’s great activities to do. It’s quieter than the cafeteria and I’ve learned so much,” Yash said.