It’s after school on a Tuesday in February. The Lennox Middle School Book Club members have gathered around the table. Our Lumenary, María Saldaña, leads the discussion on two books they have recently read. The students, a blend of middle school ages, sit quietly at first. In her soft yet confident voice, María sets the tone for the afternoon.
The first book is Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. The topics are heavy; there’s physical and emotional abuse, neglect, the foster care system, and all of the challenges it carries. Even so, once the conversation begins, students eagerly engage in the discourse. After a deep dive into the story’s characters, students relate the readings to their own home lives, some disclosing personal events in their recent past. What is shared in this group stays in this group. The Book Club is a safe place.
The second book, Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulson, is comparatively lighter fare. It is the club’s first graphic novel, and within it, vegetables come to life thanks to the magical work of a friendly witch. The book illustrates the themes of kindness, trust, and making judgments based on more than simply someone’s appearance. One young student who doesn’t usually speak up suddenly finds his contributions worthy of dialogue among the members. His feelings of validation are palpable. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are valued here.
The afternoon ends with the distribution of their next read, Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai. Students depart with anticipation for this new story and another gathering in the coming month.
We are so excited to spotlight and support María’s vital work. This work is on her own time and often her own dime, as there is no school or district funding for the LMS Book Club. This year, we provided books as part of María’s recognition as a Lumenary.
We would love to continue to support her and her students in the years to come. Please consider a donation below if you’d like to support us in these efforts.
If you missed María’s story, you can check it out here.