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Cranford High School Seeks Community Members for Intergenerational Book Study

Cranford High School is inviting community members to join a book discussion group with students in early 2018, after receiving a grant from the Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence (CFEE).


“During independent reading in all four of our classrooms, we observed that students and parents were having some really great conversations when they were reading the same books,” said Jennifer Hilborn, Teacher of English at CHS, who submitted the CFEE grant application. “Working off a text gave them a safe space and forum for discussing some tough issues with an adult perspective. We wanted to build on that, and it would have been difficult without the funding from CFEE.”


The project will provide the opportunity and choice for students, staff, and intergenerational community members to read and discuss stories of individuals confronted with limitations that stem from racial, socioeconomic, physical, and gender issues. Members of the student-led book study group will formally meet twice after school to discuss and reflect on the text, making real-world connections with members of the community. The Cranford Public Library will be partnering to publicize the program and recruit community members as well.


Each book study group will be assigned one of the following texts for the flagship program:


  1. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs

  2. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

  3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

  4. The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens

  5. Searching for Augusta: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne by Martin King


As part of the CFEE-funded program, students and the self-selected community participants will each receive a copy of their assigned book and a journal for recording notes and impressions leading up to discussion.


“We tried to pick high-interest reading material that community members and students would both enjoy,” Nicole Conter, CHS English Teacher, said. “It’s also easy to pair these texts with outside supplemental sources like podcasts, documentaries, and other resources to build on and enrich the learning experience.”


“We also want this project to demonstrate for the students that reading doesn’t stop when you graduate,” said Kathleen Shaw, CHS Teacher of English. “By witnessing and engaging with community members of all ages and backgrounds, we hope this will help foster a lifelong love of reading.”


For community members, participation in the project is a low investment of time with a potentially fruitful return.


“Not only will community members enjoy reading and discussing an excellent story, our hope is also that through these kinds of experiences, the community at large can become more personally invested in the school systems and in the lives of our students individually,” CHS English Teacher Robert Ciarrocca said.


Cranford High School Principal, Mr. Mark Cantagallo is fully supportive of the new project.


“This type of activity focuses on community and lifelong learning while putting students in leadership positions and opening our doors to the public to show them how great this school is, right in their town,” Cantagallo said.


“When you see people of varying backgrounds and ages all in the same room at the same time talking about books and the human experience, you can’t duplicate that.”


Community members interested in participating should email Mr. Robert Ciarrocca, Teacher of English: ciarrocca@cranfordschools.org by December 1, 2017.


Pictured: Four of the five non-fiction books selected for the flagship community book study at CHS.

Pictured (L to R): CHS English Teachers: Ms. Kathleen Shaw, Mr. Robert Ciarrocca, Ms. Nicole Conter, Ms. Jennifer HIlborn and CHS Principal Mark Cantagallo


Click here for a brief video.


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