Wonder what book everyone is reading at Cobar High?

CHS’s head teacher of school improvement, Amie Hill with students Noah Knight, Sam Cain and Aiden Barraclough. ▪

Cobar High School is taking a brand new whole-of-school approach to teaching litera-cy with a goal to have all students and staff reading the same book.
Front-lining the literacy pilot program is CHS’s head teacher of school improvement, Amie Hill who explained how the program works and how it came about.
“Predominantly it’s about reading and en-hancing students’ reading results across the school, on all levels,” Amie said.
She said part of their goal is to create a col-lective understanding on a diverse text.
Working with the NSW Department of Edu-cation’s literacy advisor for the region, Amie said prior to this year they had been concen-trating on reading comprehension strategies—explicitly teaching reading comprehension strategies to students in stage four (Year 7 and 8).
“Now more recent data shows we need to go a little bit further back than that and start with vocabulary.
“This year’s whole school literacy focus is vocabulary,” she said.
“At this stage it’s all staff and just stage four students (Year 7 and Year 8) reading it but the ultimate goal is to have the whole school read-ing the same book.
“We want to see the principal reading the same novel that students are reading. We want all the staff to be able to talk to the students about it, and not just their literacy teachers.”
Each day the students have a literacy lesson on their specific book.
“We’ve got the higher ability readers in one class and the lower level abilities in another, and that’s allowed us to use our more experi-enced teachers to work with the students who need the extra help.
“They’ve only got 10-14 in their classes where the others are up to 20.
“In conjunction with ‘the one text focus’ is an accelerated reader program that everyone else is doing, so in period three they all read for 20 minutes a book of their choice, but it’s at their level.”
The school’s current focus book is Wonder, a novel by RJ Palacio which follows the journey of a young boy Auggie, who was born with a facial difference as he struggles with blending into mainstream schooling.
“The main character isn’t in high school but it is that school theme—the bullying, harass-ment, turning the eye—and that overall story is all teachable,” Amie said.
“It shows too within life lessons what you can do if you witness that as well.
“The ultimate goal is to improve our reading culture so any support from families to engage in reading is great.
“Potentially parents reading the text them-selves will help them to further engage with the students but again improving the culture of reading is the ultimate goal.
“It’s something parents can do, they can be that role model who reads for enjoyment.”
While there has been a popular movie adap-tation made of the book, Amie encourages anyone who enjoyed the movie to also read the book.
She said there’s a number of key differences between the two.
“The book is well worth the read, especially in support of our high school students in their studies.”
Amie said the school has a plan for this to be a long term program that will see students be gifted a new book every year and so when they go on and graduate from Cobar High School, they’ll be leaving school with their own “little library”.—Article compiled by Macleay College journalist student Holly McGuinness