April 02, 2014 15:54 Age: 4 yrs

A Dean’s Story: Helping Students Discover a Lifelong Love of Reading

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Katie Parente is an academic dean at AF Bridgeport Academy Middle.

There are many moments during the day when I stop and say, “Wow! I can’t believe that just happened, how cool.” One of my favorite such moments was one where I was surrounded by a bunch of AF Bridgeport Academy Middle students heading to Shake Shack.

A few years ago, we started the Shake Shack tradition to build investment and excitement for independent reading. Each semester, the student from each advisory who reads the most books in a trimester earns a celebratory dinner with AF Bridgeport Academy Middle teachers at Shake Shack. It’s a fun night; what’s not fun about celebrating your accomplishments, hot dogs, hamburgers and milkshakes?

My favorite part of the night is the car ride to and from the restaurant. Regardless of the group of kids I have in my car, I can guarantee that someone will start a conversation about books. I’m very deliberate about not letting that someone be me, because I want the conversation to be around whatever the kids want to talk about.  Every trip, it is always about books. To say it warms my heart is an understatement. I often can’t get a word in edgewise as kids lovingly argue and debate about which book is best.

It is a beautiful moment when I get to step back and see the impact of our reading teachers’ lessons. Our teachers know that a love of reading is a lifelong passion and a necessary habit for whatever path our students take when they graduate from college. For me, hearing our students talk about books they love is even better than finding a book of my own to love.


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