A group of seventh-graders participate in a discussion about Lauren Wolk’s book “Wolf Hollow,” led by volunteer facilitators. PHOTO COURTESY OF ISLAND READERS AND WRITERS

Islandwide read inspires seventh graders

MOUNT DESERT — All 120 seventh-graders from five Mount Desert Island Regional School System schools came together Oct. 20 for Island Readers & Writers’ (IRW) 7th Grade Read.

Students from Connors Emerson in Bar Harbor, Pemetic Elementary in Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Elementary in Northeast Harbor, Trenton Elementary, Tremont Elementary, Swans Island and Cranberry Isles converged at Camp Beech Cliff for a morning filled with activities based around the Newbery Honor-winning book “Wolf Hollow.”

“Wolf Hollow” author Lauren Wolk was on hand to speak about her inspiration for the novel, answer questions and listen in on small discussion groups in which students from various schools talked about their favorite parts of the story.

The middle-grade novel tells the coming-of-age story of Annabelle, a 12-year-old girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania during World War II. It has received international praise and drawn comparisons to Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Wolk noted that the story was inspired by her mother’s experiences growing up and told students, “the things you are doing right now are shaping who you will be and may someday make it into a book of its own,” said the author. “You are in the middle of your own coming-of-age story.”

Wolk suggested that the groups write their own stories and take note of “the ordinary that can become extraordinary.”

The author also urged each student to find his or her voice, much like Annabelle did in the story.

“You may not feel like you have much power at 12-years-old,” said Wolk. “But it matters very much what you think and what you say. You have enormous power. Use your voice and use the tools you have at your disposal. You have individual power, and you also have power as a generation.”

Many students created book trailers, similar to movie trailers, and presented them to their peers and to Wolk, who was impressed by the students’ skills.

Thirteen volunteers from different corners of the community, including Ephron Catlin, Dianne Clendaniel, Amanda Crafts, Autumn Demaine, Carrie Eason, Jean Evans, David Evans, Jill Higgins, Lisa Horsch-Clark, Dencie McEnroe, Margie Phelps, Tony Preston-Schreck and Mark Woida, led small group discussions based on aspects of “Wolf Hollow,” which included the themes and topics of bullying, lying and post-traumatic stress disorder.

IRW Program Director Ruth Feldman said this year’s 7th Grade Read was a success.

“The connection that the students made with the book and with Lauren [Wolk] is what IRW strives for in all of our visits; engagement with the book from many perspectives. The event is unique in that it brings together all seventh graders from MDIRSS to share and get to know one another, develop their own voice and ideas through facilitated, interactive exercises,” said Feldman. “Collaboration with MDI teachers enables the experience to be integrated into classroom and real life learning as students interact with the book, each other and the community volunteers in an inspiring setting.”

IRW is a nonprofit organization located in Southwest Harbor that connects authors and illustrators to children in Hancock and Washington counties and the outer islands with the goal of instilling in young students a lifelong passion for reading and learning. Visit www.islandreadersandwriters.org

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