“Everybody uses words to express themselves. Except me. And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words. But I do. Thoughts need words. Words need a voice.”
Last week, fifteen families gathered in the Learning Village Library at 6 PM Family Book Club, inspired by Sharon Draper’s novel Out of My Mind. Here is a summary of the novel, from Sharon Draper’s website:
Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school – but NO ONE knows it.
Most people-her teachers and doctors included-don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows. But she can’t. She can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind-that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.
Family Book Club participants shared the story at home and came to our event celebration brimming with thoughts, feelings, and opinions. We started by giving everyone a name tag and moving around the room with some warm-up writing and art questions. Families could work together to share their thoughts about sentence starters like.. If I could tell Melody one thing, it would be… and, Reading Melody’s story made me think/changed my mind about… While they introduced themselves and chatted about the book, families could also share their opinions on characterization posters asking for words to describe main characters like Melody, Mr. Dimming, and Claire. Families looking for an artistic way to share were invited to make their own cover for Out of My Mind to share.
Next we broke into smaller groups to dig deeper with some discussion questions. Student readers and their parents made themselves comfortable and used pre-written questions to guide the conversation as they talked about Melody, her life at home, her life at school, and the way her character changed over the course of the novel. Students challenged each other’s assumptions, shared emotional responses, and talked through difficult and unpleasant topics with their parents at their sides. Here were some of our favorite discussion questions:
- Mrs. V treats Melody differently than everyone else. What does she do? Why is that important for Melody? What do you think Mrs. V’s life has been like, to make her that way?
- Put yourself in Melody’s shoes when she sees her quiz team for the first time after they return from the competition. What would you have said and done?
- Compare Mrs. Billings (the teacher that taught Melody’s H-5 class the alphabet every day) to Mrs. Shannon (Melody’s H-5 teacher this year). How are they the same? How are they different?
- Name 5 obstacles that Melody had to overcome in the story. Name 5 more that you think she would face in a sequel.
- If you could learn more about one character from the story or read from their point of view, who would it be and why?
After our discussion, we grabbed dinner and took a seat from a special guest speaker: Kara McClurken from Bennett’s Village. Bennett’s Village is an organization close to my heart, with an amazing goal: “Play has no boundaries. Charlottesville needs a playground that allows kids of all ages and abilities to play together. We are working to build a multigenerational, all abilities playground here in Charlottesville and advocating to change the way our community sees inclusion.” Kara spoke to us all about Bennett, his life, his legacy, and what people of all ages – especially kids! – can do to help kids like Bennett and Melody. She connected Bennett’s Village, and our lives in Charlottesville, seamlessly with Out of My Mind in a way that made readers think, challenged them, and left them feeling inspired. You can learn more about Bennett’s Village here, and scroll to the bottom of the post to see a recording of a small portion of Kara’s presentation.
It was wonderful to see readers and their families gathered together to celebrate Sharon Draper’s one-of-a-kind novel, Out of My Mind. Thank you to all of the families that participated, and to the St. Anne’s-Belfield maintenance and dining teams for all of your work to make this event happen. And a special thank you to Kara from Bennett’s Village for all that you do for our community, and for sharing your amazing story and family with us.
See more photos from Family Book Club here.