Superintendent’s Community Book Club Engages & Inspires All
Manolo Panariello, a freshman at Oyster Bay High School, was pleasantly surprised by the outcome when he participated in his first Community Book Club hosted by Dr. Laura Seinfeld, Superintendent of Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District. “I didn’t expect that everyone was going to change their perspective on the book based on the participants they were conversing with,” he said.
Held in the Oyster Bay High School Library, the evening was set up as a World Café Model where about 35 participants, divided into mixed groups of six per table, discussed the novel, The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. After a set amount of time, five members of each group switched tables and were introduced to the previous discussion at their new table by a "table host." Each table host was a student who took notes and encouraged others to engage in the conversation that was guided by three questions.
“The goal is to partner participants with people they don’t know as a way to open up the conversation, share new ideas and elicit new perspectives,” said Dr. Seinfeld, “and I think we achieved that tonight.”
Set in 1939 at the start of World War II, the novel is about a 10-year-old girl named Ada, who has a club foot and can barely walk. She has never left her apartment in London because her abusive mother is too embarrassed by her daughter’s disability. Ada is forced to view the world from a window in their one-bedroom apartment where she cooks and takes care of her younger brother, Jamie. When the government decides to ship children from London to the countryside to escape the war, Ada leaves for the countryside with her brother without her mother knowing. There she meets a woman named Susan who ultimately changes her life forever.
Conversations were prompted by three questions by co-facilitator Student Council President Lindsey Tiberia. They were: “What moment in the story strengthened Ada’s confidence and what moments caused her to question who she is?” Second, “Why do you think the author selected the title of the book?” And third, “List ‘Acts of Kindness’ in the book and what ‘Acts of Kindness’ does this book inspire us to incorporate in our school?” After the conversations, each table host stood up and shared highlights of their discussions. The event culminated with a “harvesting of ideas,” where one person shared an idea and the next person built on it.
Sophomore Cheli Ann DeCarolis, who attended the event for the second year and was a table host, said “I really connected with the book and how Ada overcame her obstacles…when she realized who she was and how other people helped her along the way, that was really justifying for me. What I enjoyed about the evening was discussing the lessons in the book and how they could be applied to real life; how to be thankful.”
“It was truly heartwarming to see how our students, staff and community embraced this wonderful story,” said Dr. Seinfeld. “They were engaged, insightful and made excellent connections. I hope they walked away inspired and with a fresh outlook on how they can integrate the themes in the book in their daily lives.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Seinfeld explains the format of the evening.
Students, parent and educators engage in thoughtful conversation on the book The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.
Following the World Café Model, participants change tables to continue their book discussions.
Students share their thoughts during the “harvest ideas” portion of the evening.