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One Book for All: North Buncombe Middle Reads 'Refugee'
One Book for All: North Buncombe Middle Reads 'Refugee'
Posted on 02/24/2021
Everyone at North Buncombe Middle School is on the same page when it comes to reading.By: Benjamin Rickert
BCS Communications

Everyone at North Buncombe Middle School is on the same page when it comes to reading, and it has led to a deeper understanding of complex world events.

This month, all teachers and students received a copy of the historical fiction novel “Refugee” by local author Alan Gratz. At the end of each school day, they open their books together and continue the story while teachers read aloud.

“During a time when we're all bombarded with visual, auditory, and sensory stimuli, we decided to return to the basics of reading a book for enjoyment,” said Media Specialist Shelly Cloninger. “The idea of reading the same book allows everyone in the building to discuss the book and its themes collectively.”

Through storylines in three historical settings — Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Communist Cuba in the 1990s, and the Syrian civil war in the 2010s — the novel’s themes have sparked plenty of thoughtful discussions. The text tackles issues of religion, economics, culture, geography, forms of government, and more. Additionally, the book's portrayal of adversity has inspired classroom conversations about today's challenges with the pandemic.

“The book follows three children, all about the age of our students now, who are facing adversities, challenges, discrimination, and danger that force them to leave their homes in search of safety through a new life and country,” explained seventh grade social studies teacher Erin Salkin.

Reading together has made Salkin’s students more curious about topics covered in class, such as World War II and the Cold War. During discussions, the group references historical photographs and videos to better understand the events described in Gratz’s book.

“The students have been so receptive,” Salkin added. “It is awesome to hear all of the pages turning together.”

In addition to reinforcing social studies and English curriculum, reading together has provided North Buncombe students with other tangible benefits.

“By spending 20 minutes reading aloud to our students, we are growing their vocabulary, providing fluency models, lengthening attention spans, strengthening comprehension, and - perhaps most importantly - fostering the love of enjoying a good book,” said Cloninger.

The media specialist worked with her school’s principal, Dr. Jamie Johnson, to develop the plan for this semester’s read-aloud experience. The current book will conclude in April.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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