Three years ago, Language Arts teacher Mrs. Riddering stumbled across a program so fascinating she felt compelled to integrate it into her classroom. Known as “The Global Read Aloud,” this program connects students and classrooms globally by selecting one book that will be read across the world. The students are then encouraged to dialogue with other students across the world as they unpack the essence of the book and its meaning.
Exploring the Experiences of Refugees
This year, The Global Read Aloud selected Refugee by Alan Gratz, a story that follows three refugees across the decades: Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany, Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015. The book broaches difficult topics in both history and the present, which her middle school students are expected to unpack. Questions such as what it means to be a refugee, what life looks like inside a refugee camp, and how becoming a refugee can transform a person’s life are just a few of the many topics discussed weekly in Mrs. Riddering’s classroom.
Mrs. Riddering’s classes are using the modern mediums of blogging and vlogging to create their reflections,
teaching them important public speaking, writing, and digital skills which will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Connecting with Readers Around the Globe
As they’re developing these skills, they’re also interacting with students across the globe in a more personalized manner. So far, Mrs. Riddering’s class has sent out over two hundred postcards around the world, and received postcards from almost every state, in addition to New Zealand, Canada, and France. “They’re making connections and understanding that the world is larger than the four walls in their classroom,” said Mrs. Riddering as she reflected on the program’s impact. “It really accomplishes so many things. We write with it; we learn how to send postcards; we blog and vlog as we reflect on these topics.”
However, Mrs. Riddering understands that the Global Read Aloud does much more than just create an educational opportunity to learn to read, write, and speak. “As Christians,” Mrs. Riddering stated, “we have an obligation to the world to be aware of what’s going on and to help when and where we can. You can’t help if you don’t know where to help.” For this reason, Mrs. Riddering has paired Refugee with relevant videos and lessons that tie the whole learning process together and teach her students about the current global political climate.
Although the Global Read Aloud challenge began as a way to get middle school students excited and engaged with the reading process, it has since transformed into a way of making connections both in and out of the classroom. These connections have exposed students to ideas across the world, and helped them see past their personal bubble. Though these students are only in 6th and 7th grade, the lessons they’re learning are lessons they will carry with them throughout the rest of their lives.