Academic Council Spotlight: The Reading Zone
Of the initiatives that have been realized by virtue of the new Academic Council processes, the Upper School Reading Zone initiative is perhaps the most outwardly visible to Peck families.
A growing body of research shows the importance of reading for pleasure and its many benefits to all facets of life. People who read for pleasure also, at the same time, deepen their capacity for empathy, for creativity, and for actively exchanging ideas within a globally-connected community. Noted author Neil Gaiman, speaking under the auspices of the Reading Agency in 2013, said that "The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them."
The Reading Zone Implementation Committee of the Academic Council (co-chaired by Upper School English Teachers Chelsey Carr and Elizabeth Muller) launched the program to Grades 5-8 in November 2018. It aims precisely to strengthen literacy and myriad related benefits through dedicated time for pleasure reading of narrative texts. During the week, Upper School students are afforded 30 distraction-free minutes to lose themselves in a book, as well as time to learn reading strategies and discuss literary themes in hour-long workshops. They abide by Peck's guide to A Reader's Rights and Responsibilities, which—beyond laying out the rules of the program—empowers their own agency as readers. Students get to know their own reading styles, preferences, and opinions; and thus, they also get to know themselves a little bit better.