McNulty fourth-graders embark on an international reading experience

Students in Robyn Kowalczyk’s fourth grade class at McNulty Elementary are taking their classroom reading time to international heights by participating in “Global Read Aloud” this fall.

The idea behind the program, created in 2010 by Wisconsin-based English teacher Pernille Ripp, is to use one book to connect the world.

Teachers interested in having their students participate choose a grade-appropriate book to read over a six-week period. During that time, the class connects with English-speaking students from all over the world to discuss the chapters.

The first connection for Mrs. Kowalczyk’s students is a fifth grade class from Ontario, Canada. The two classes “met” for the first time via Skype on Friday, Oct. 14, to discuss the first two chapters of “Pax,” a novel by Sara Pennypacker.

“We stick to a reading schedule and we make sure not to read ahead so we don’t spoil the book for each other,” Kowalczyk said. “Then, every week, you connect and ask each other questions about what you’ve read and share your thoughts and opinions about the book.”

While the program is centered on a shared reading experience, Kowalczyk says the students have the opportunity to develop friendships, too. In fact, their first Skype call began with both students asking about what school was like for one another.

Another goal of Global Read Aloud is to facilitate as many global connections as possible for classrooms during the six-week session; and Kowalczyk says she’s received messages from a teacher in Australia and another in Texas who are hoping to connect with her class, as well.