Book Talkin’ with a Special Guest

On the night of April 6th, the tenth grade Integrated English and World History Regents and AP classes gathered at OHS’s library with their parents, faculty, and community members to discuss Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. The novel tells the story of two sisters living in France during World War II. Over 130 attendees participated in this event to discuss the novel in a book club-like setting. Select students facilitated the discussions, asking the groups about particular scenes from the book and how the characters and storyline related to their own lives.

Teachers Mrs. Trongard, Mrs. Frasca, Mrs. Horowitz, and Ms. Schuellein started this tradition a year ago. Mrs. Horowitz says, “This is a night I look forward to all year. This is a night that brings together our Integrated family as well as their extended family to celebrate a love for reading. It’s also a night where our students’ skills that we’ve been working on all year really get to shine.” The Book Talk is symbolic of what Integrated is all about – connecting world history and literature and being able to discuss the significance of it all. Earlier during the year, Integrated students participated in Socratic seminars in class and taught philosophy to kindergarten and elementary school students throughout the district. The Book Talk allowed the students to once again show off their communication skills.

In addition, between reading and discussing the book with each other, students and parents were able to partake in a unique bonding experience. The last time these parents read with their children was when they were telling them bedtime stories. The Book Talk gave these families an opportunity to indulge in this nostalgic activity with a new twist. Students are now at the age where they and their parents can discuss a book at the same intellectual level. However, the age difference between the parents and students continue to provide the dialogues with differing perspectives, helping to develop these insightful conversations. Parent Erik Heintz says, “To see this kind of banter back and forth was fun.”

Students also enjoyed sharing this experience with their friends and community. Sophomore Areej Ahmed says, “I liked how it was the two Integrated classes combined. It really opened it up to everyone and allowed everyone to share their ideas.”

The conversations were not all the attendees were treated to. At the conclusion of the Book Talk, the teachers surprised everyone by video chatting with Kristin Hannah, the author of The Nightingale. Students were able to ask her questions about the book and learn about her life as an author. She also told the group that, “When you find something you really love, you want other people to read it. It is really good to get that conversation going, and it starts creating these relationships with other people who love books…and they will recommend to you. It just broadens everyone’s experience.”

The Book Talk was indeed a success. All who attended walked out having a different understanding of the book and left with a memorable experience. To hear some of the discussions that went on and to view some of the questions students asked the author, click below. (WARNING: both the audio and video clips may contain spoilers!)

Thank you to Mrs. Trongard, Mrs. Frasca, Mrs. Horowitz, and Ms. Schuellein for organizing and inviting me to their book talk.