Inaugural 'Go Big Read' program a big success

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If you read it, they will come. MCPASD teachers Pam Anderson, Bryn Orum and Paula Bigham took nearly 140 students to UW-Madison recently to participate in a collaborative community discussion of UW’s “Go Big Read” book and the teachers said it was a huge success. The MCPASD students, along with another 60 UW English 100 students, discussed and analyzed Enrique’s Journey, a book by Sonia Nazario that deals with desperation, poverty, immigration, migration, abandonment and other topics. The event was organized by Anderson, Orum and Bigham, who also received help from UW graduate student and English 100 teacher Lauren Gatti. “(This) has prompted some challenging classroom discussions about choice-less choices,’’ Anderson said. “Students are just beginning to realize that as you analyze a text with a group there are no right or wrong answers. … “We want students to understand this is not just something that happens in our classroom when looking at literature but a way of looking at and living life.’’ The event was held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on Wednesday, Oct. 19. MCPASD students each participated in a discussion circle facilitated by two UW students and also listened to two guest speakers: Dr. Susan Robinson of the UW-Madison School of Journalism, and Dr. Petra Guerra, an associate director of Latino and Chicano studies. The inspiration for a joint venture between UW and MCPASD came during a four-week writing institute sponsored by the Greater Madison Writing Project this summer. “We thought wouldn’t it be neat to get all of our students together to talk about it?’’ said Orum, who teaches English at MASH and is in her fifth year at the school. “We don’t want to read and write in isolation. The book raises a lot of questions but the beauty of the program is this brings them together to talk about it.’’ Orum brought seven students from her Historical Literature class MASH, while Anderson and Bigham had another 130 students who take Critical Reading at MHS. Anderson, who said her students are working on projects related to the event that are due next week, said her main goal of getting students to understand that you read not just for the purpose of learning from the text but from each others’ responses was met. “I think the defining moment of this unit for me as a teacher was when I had a student share, ‘I thought I knew a lot about immigration until I read this book,’ and then many students agreed with that sentiment,’’ Anderson said. The GMWP was established in 2010 and is one of more than 200 sites established under the National Writing Project. They also paid for the books used at MCPASD. “It was a phenomenal experience,’’ Orum said. “It was a lot of work but worth it. We’re thrilled with how it turned out. I think (the students) really enjoyed it. It was another opportunity for them to learn.’’