Emerson fourth-graders explore cultures, create peer bonds in new reading groups

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Since the start of April, fourth-grade students at Emerson Elementary have been meeting each week in small reading groups, poring over picture books that dive into cultures and traditions much different from their own and reflecting on what they’ve read through discussions.

Through the new Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes picture book activity, the school’s fourth-grade teachers — Mara Katz, Kathy Riesterer and Melissa Taylor — wanted to bring all students together to better learn about others' experiences and cultures while comparing it to their own.

Katz said at the end of the year, all fourth-graders read “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, which is based on the experiences of Sudanese Lost Boy refugees. 

“It can be a bit of a leap for some students to empathize with a story of someone who seemingly lives so far away,” she said. “Our picture book activity, Walk in Someone Else's Shoes, is a way to help bridge the gap.”

“Further, our classrooms have at times felt separate from one another, so we have enjoyed including activities that help form bonds among all of the fourth graders in both the magnet and gifted classes.”

Students meet each Thursday to read picture books provided by librarian Beth Meta and fifth-grade teacher Bethany Morris.

“We hope that students strengthen their peer relationships, learn about people different from themselves, and enjoy sharing these stories with each other,” Katz said.