by Denise Gary
Photographs © Robert Gary

“Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible — the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.” —Virginia Satir

The quote above could easily be describing Reading Revolution, the groundbreaking Kids Need to Read literacy program for middle school students, produced in partnership with Arizona State University and ASU Preparatory Academy. The time I spend immersed in the program with the students at the school is always a moving and even instructive experience for me. These kids want to learn and they want to create a bright future for themselves. There is no spinning of the wheels at ASU Preparatory Academy. The atmosphere is disciplined, yet nurturing, and the students are very much aware of why they are there. The result is success!

During the month of May, the seventh and eighth grade students at ASU Preparatory Academy presented posters and skits after reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. The student projects followed an earlier Kids Need to Read presentation on the book, during which all students received copies of the book to keep, made possible by Avnet Contributions Council. Projects focused on positive and negative methods of handling bullying, various types of abuse, difficult family relationships, attitudes toward school, and low self-esteem, among others. The presentations were followed by group discussions. The students were highly engaged, which resulted in a positive and productive environment.

English teacher Andrea Enger explained the procedures to the students.

The students in each class were broken up into groups. Each group presented three posters and three skits illustrating ideas from the book.

Skits sometimes tackled difficult subject matter, such as physical and verbal abuse, or challenging family relationships.

Students illustrated positive and negative methods of dealing with various problems.

Dealing with bullying was a popular theme.

Skits were followed by group discussions, with Ms. Enger laying down the ground rules.

Each student provided input on the other groups’ presentations.

Denise also provided positive input on each groups’ presentations.

At the end of class, students shared how they had been affected by the book and projects.

Students shared their thoughts openly.

Students took the project to heart, putting a great deal of effort into their posters and skits. Their posters demonstrated a sincere grasp of the material, illustrating their points simply and directly.

I also had a chance to read some of the student’s anonymous letters, sharing their problems and describing how The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens helped them move toward solving, or at least handling, their situations. Their problems were not trivial. I explained to the students that books will not make life easier—there will always be difficult challenges facing them—rather books are tools that can be used throughout their lives to help them become leaders of their own destinies. The students understood, because the Reading Revolution “7 Habits” project had made them aware of the immense power stored within the covers of one small book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

There are many more wonderful pictures of student posters and skits in the Reading Revolution: Inspiring Positive Life Paradigms Student Presentations photo gallery. Please take a moment to enjoy their excellent work.

Later that month, it was my great privilege to attend the eighth grade promotion ceremony at ASU Preparatory Academy. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! I took this picture with my phone of beaming eighth-about-to-be-ninth grade students just before they left for the auditorium. I am so proud of them all!

More information about Reading Revolution and its partners can be found on the Reading Revolution webpage.


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