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Book Jam highlights ‘Scenes behind the Dream’

Huntington, Ind.-Huntington University's year long emphasis on diversity has trickled down through the Department of Education to leave its mark with this year's annual Book Jam.

The elementary reading program, developed by Dr. Cindy Steury, professor of education, and Trace Hinesley, gives Huntington University students the opportunity to team with the Huntington County Community School Corporation to facilitate discussion groups with fourth and fifth graders in an effort to promote a love for reading. Hinesley serves as the director of special programs for HCCSC.

"It is an invited group of fourth and fifth graders," Steury said. "They have been identified as part of Project Challenge with the school cooperation, and those are children who are very gifted in reading."

Junior education majors from Huntington University lead the discussion groups, based on the book read that week, for children in the program.

The Book Jam's theme for this year is "Scenes behind the Dream."

"We're hoping that we're showing different pictures of what life was like before Martin Luther King gets up and speaks," Steury said. "It's a chance for us to look at the arts, to look at athletics and look at regular families through this filter of diversity."

The books selected for the Book Jam included "When Marian Sang" by Pam Munoz, "Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry" by Mildred D. Taylor, "We Are the Ship" by Kadir Nelson and "The Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963" by Christopher Paul Curtis.

All the books were selected for their different facets pertaining to diversity, Steury said. But "We are the Ship" was placed on the book list because of its award-winning reputation, receiving the Sibert Metal and the Coretta Scott King Award for 2009.

The Book Jam itself was created with the intention of achieving several goals.

"Trace Hinesley was interested in doing something to encourage and support reading and reading for enjoyment among the elementary kids," Steury said. "We were interested in practicing literature circles, and this gave us a chance to experience literature circles with children."

The goal of the Book Jam is to have child choose reading as a leisure activity, she explained.

"Because so much of the school curriculum is focused on skills and standards, we want to use literature circles as a motivator," Steury said. "We need to fall in love with literature so that children read for pleasure and then become excellent readers because they choose to do it and spend time doing it."

Along with creating an environment that allows children to enjoy reading, Hinesley and Steury make sure that the elementary students each receive their very own copies of the required readings for the program.

Children are not the only one who reap the benefits of this organization.

"It's great for the facilitators [Huntington University students]," Steury said. "They always appreciate the experience and benefit as future educators."

The Book Jam met four times this year, beginning on Sept. 15 and concluding on Oct. 27.