It’s lunchtime, but about 24 second- and third-graders have adjourned to the clubhouse at Yorktown Elementary School to discuss the main character’s plight in “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.”
The children, placed in skill level-appropriate groups by teachers, will gather at lunch each Thursday for four weeks to dig into what one parent called the “heavy” story of Sadako, a Japanese girl battling leukemia who hopes a legend is true and her wish for healing will be granted if she folds 1,000 paper cranes.
“It’s a really great story and it’s fun,” said Marcos Rios, a third-grader from Bowie. “We’re with all our friends and talking about the same book we all read.”
Sitting around a table in an unused classroom renovated by parents to be a comfortable “clubhouse” with couches and a tree painted on one wall, Marcos and his classmates talked with two parent volunteers about Sadako’s love of running, her illness and the Japanese legend that prompted her to begin folding paper cranes.
“It’s an opportunity for the kids to think critically,” said Susie Foushee, the PTA’s education chairwoman who is organizing the book clubs, which started in April. “They were trying to figure out ... what they thought the sickness was, what they thought about her life.”
The book clubs, through which all second- through fifth-grade students will rotate, were made possible by a $1,000 grant from the city of Bowie, said Foushee of Bowie. The grant allowed the PTA to purchase 20 copies of each of nine books, including “The Secret Garden,” “Abel’s Island” and “The Cricket in Times Square.”
Yorktown’s reading specialist, Mary Jo Domen, said she welcomed the new books and the help of parent volunteers to offer the opportunity to more students. Domen said she had not heard of similar clubs in other schools.
Domen read “The Cricket in Times Square” in April with a group of talented and gifted students, who ended the club by creating projects, such as games or poems, about the book.
After finishing “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,” students will fold paper cranes to create a display to hang in the clubhouse, Foushee said.
“[A book club] is more of a choice. It’s not something you have to do, so they see reading is fun and not just a subject in school,” said Domen, who helped choose the nine books based on their themes, vocabulary and how much children tend to enjoy them.
Students do not have to participate when their class takes a turn in a book club, but students do have a say in selecting the book they take home to read, according to a description of the book clubs that was sent home to parents.
And the second- and third-grade students are enjoying “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.”
“I liked that [Sadako’s] friend made her feel better by making paper cranes,” said Angel Ferrell, a second-grade student from Bowie. “If they had a thousand, she would wish to feel better.”