This closer look at children’s experiences in Cool Classics! suggests that one of the benefits of the program is that it offers something to children at many different stages of development. It is exciting to see how “gifted” students and struggling readers alike participated in the different discussions and that, overall, their answers to the second set of survey questions reflected a deeper understanding of the meaning(s) of the story… This seems to be a very valuable finding and one that should be emphasized: with time and with different methods of engaging with the story, it appears that more students gain the ability to draw personal meaning from classic literature.
A number of the children cited the arts component as one of their favorite aspects of the Cool Classics! program. In a way, it appears that art-based activities might function as a form of leveling – by providing children with creative ways of engaging with different aspects of the story, all of the children – not just the good readers – get to do the work of meaning-making.
As a whole, the Cool Classics! program exceeded the expectations of the adults who were involved with it.
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M. Catherine Gruber earned her Ph.D. in Linguistics with distinction from the University of Chicago. Her research interests center on how language forms are appropriately and effectively used in contexts of interaction, especially in revealing the emotional framing of communication. Her dissertation research in U.S. Federal District Courts studies the properties of apologies produced by defendants at their sentencing hearings.