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Book Chat

Lauren Bruno, Staff Writer

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Book Chat is a book club that is run by NMHS teachers Mrs. Wendy Mackey and Mrs. Lynne Torpie. Every month the group meets to discuss a book they have decided to read and/or watch the movie of the book.

As a former member of Book Chat, I can personally say it is nice for those who really like reading to take the time out of their day once a month to discuss a book everyone either enjoyed or didn’t. For others, it was helpful that members could also watch the movie instead of reading the book, or do both.

In an interview with Mrs. Torpie,she said she loves to read and that it is her principle hobby at home. Mrs. Torpie likes to talk about books, likes when anybody else reads, and she gets excited about books with anybody.

Mrs. Mackey and Mrs. Torpie both said they didn’t start Book Chat but they kept it going. New Milford High School’s former librarian, Mrs. Keesing started it, but Mrs. Mackey stepped in and and took over the advisorship when she left. She took over because she said reading is “so ridiculously important and nobody reads anymore, which is very unfortunate.” Mrs. Mackey said it is where she gets her imagination from and she believes it is really where her writing skills come from.

Mrs. Torpie stated you can’t write unless you can read because it gives you a sense of how language flows and it increases your vocabulary tremendously. Mrs. Mackey explained she still looks up vocabulary words from the novels she reads.

Mrs. Torpie brought up a good point that her and her husband, Mr. Peter Torpie, discussed a few days ago. “They always said you couldn’t study for the SATs because you either knew it or didn’t, because as a reader, you were exposed to those words, but now SAT prep classes don’t expose or advance students’ language skills in accumulating vocabulary that can be used confidently.”

There is a real drop in reading and writing skills because students do not read books and advance those necessary skills. Mrs. Torpie and Mrs. Mackey both said they love to read stories, love to share stories, and love to hear what students think of them, and that it’s a great way to get to know somebody, too. Mrs. Mackey said it was open to anyone, “the more the merrier”. She spoke to Mrs. Carla Urbaez who also has a book chat with some women in her town. Mrs. Urbaez actually joined them and “the life that she brought to the chat was fantastic because you can understand other points of view and that’s how you learn.”

Mrs. Mackey uses a four corner method of teaching where everyone picks a corner to go to. Then when somebody says something so profound it leaves you with a thought, if you don’t agree, you can switch to a new corner.  Mrs. Mackey says that’s what book conversations do; it changes your train of thought. It either really solidifies what you believe in or gives you something brand new to believe in.

Mrs. Torpie began talking about a book about a Caucasian lawyer defending a nurse of color accused of killing a baby — the novel is called “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult. When Mrs. Urbaez came, she had a whole new dimension to add to that discussion because as a Mexican American, she could discuss some of those discrimination and prejudice issues that we as white people do not experience. “That’s what we’re trying to do with Book Chat here,” both teachers said.

I asked what type of books they would want students reading and they said there is a wide array to choose from. Mrs. Mackey said she is also welcoming to any genre the kids pick. The last fantasy book they read “The Throne of Glass” Mrs. Torpie said it was a great series, yet Mrs. Mackey said she would never in a million years have picked up that book.

Mrs. Torpie also went on to read the next few books in the series. Mrs. Mackey said that Mrs. Torpie took and ran with the series because it was such a well written, exciting to read series. They were so happy the kids picked it because there isn’t usually student choice unless they’re absolutely stumped and must throw in a suggestion.

Once a year, the advisers try to find a movie that correlates with a book and then they read the book to try and do a movie field trip. It allows the group to do a comparison and most kids are usually disappointed in the movie after having read the book. The students will often say the movie missed so much of the book, which reiterates how important books, words, and imagination are. Mrs. Mackey also added that they say English teachers should definitely direct movies because they wouldn’t let any symbolic part go, while Mrs. Torpie said they would be hours long.

The Book Chat group has read many genres of books, including student-selected titles.  From Harry Potter, to John Green, to many other different novels, Mrs. Mackey just wants students to come and put their opinion on the table to discuss the books whether it be if you didn’t really care for the book or if you really enjoyed it. She said it is a no stress club, they just want you to put up your feet and relax, there is no analyzing. Mrs. Torpie and Mrs. Mackey just want students to read to advance their knowledge. All the books that they have read are on Mrs. Mackey’s board in her classroom for anybody to read. For anyone interested in joining, the next meeting is May 2, they would love to have you stop by!

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Book Chat