Students Create Community Read Guides – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Students Create Community Read Guides

Soon all students in the Geneva City School District will receive a free, grade-appropriate book that will enable them to participate in the 2014 Community Read, sponsored by Geneva Reads. Last fall, students in Jack Harris’ “Sociology of Community” course developed teacher and family guides for the books, which share the themes of the outdoors and self-reliance, to enrich the students’ reading experience. Danielle Mueller ’16, Joy Gitter ’16 and Chiara Favaloro ’16 each chose to work on the project with Geneva Reads as part of the community service component of the course.

“I wanted to participate in this project because I have been an America Reads tutor for the past two years. The students that I have worked with have been in third and fifth grade, and therefore I felt my experience would benefit me when creating teacher curriculum for those grades,” says Favaloro, who created guides for the books “The Raft” (grades K-2) and “Stone Fox” (grades 3-5). “I also wanted to get involved because I believe that literacy is incredibly important, and I think it’s wonderful that Geneva is giving so much attention to literacy.”

Gifted illustrator Jim LaMarche’s “The Raft” focuses on what happens when a young boy reluctantly spends the summer with his “river rat” grandma at her cabin in the woods. In the discussion guide for this book, Favaloro included recommended activities such as making one’s own raft, a field trip to the lake, and storyboarding.

“Stone Fox,” by John Reynolds Gardiner is the story of a young boy who sets his sights on winning the National Dogsled Race so he can use the prize money to save his ailing grandfather’s farm from tax collectors. In the discussion guide for Stone Fox, Favaloro recommended activities that include having students perform the story as a short play.

“Through participating in this project, I have learned a lot about the public school system. While creating these teacher guides, I really enjoyed trying to think of aspects of the curriculum that could be academically challenging while also fun for the students to partake in,” she says.

Mueller created the study guide for Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet” because it was one of her favorite books when she was younger. “I was very excited to get involved in creating a reading guide for it. During my process I wanted to make sure that I was not only hitting on key plot points and turning points in terms of character development, but was also making the guide interesting and fun to work with,” she explains.

“Hatchet” is an exciting fictional account of how a teenage boy survives a plane crash with only a hatchet to aid his quest for food, shelter and protection.

“I hoped that my guide would serve to enhance the students experience with the book,” says Mueller. “I also wanted to provide the students with numerous learning opportunities to make sure that they began to push themselves to dig deeper into the text and get more from the novel than just plot points. I made sure that students were pushed to read closely.”

Among the ways she tried to do this was to have the students look for vocabulary words they were not familiar with, and include activities that had them compare themselves to the main character, Brian. She also included activities such as asking students to think of where they would choose to spend one week alone without anything but the clothes on their back.

High school students will receive a copy of Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” the true story of Christopher Johnson McCandless, who gave up most of his possessions in April 1992, donated $25,000 in savings to charity, and traveled throughout the American West and Southwest before his fateful journey to Alaska.

The book sold millions of copies in the U.S. and spent 119 straight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It also is printed in 28 languages and is required reading at universities internationally, including in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Germany, Canada and France.

Gitter created the discussion guide for “Into the Wild” and included discussion questions, character analysis, essay options, a song activity and an activity in which students write postcards to Chris.

As part of the Community Read program, McCandless’ sister, Carine McCandless, will speak at 7 p.m., Monday, March 3, at the Black Box Theatre in the Geneva Community Center. She will share personal stories, memories, photos and a video, providing a rare look into her brother’s life and legacy. The talk will conclude with a 15-minute question and answer session and book signing of “Into the Wild.” Copies will be available for purchase at the event through The College Store, a long-time Community Read partner.

Community Read month, which is co-sponsored by Geneva 2020, comes to a close on March 29 with Geneva Reads’ annual Book Fest at the Geneva Community Center. Books for the Community Read and Book Fest are provided by Geneva Reads, with grant money from the Wyckoff Family Foundation. Support for this year’s event is also coming from the Geneva Public Library, The Smith Center for the Arts, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and WEOS (Finger Lakes Public Radio, a service of HWS). Finger Lakes Federal Credit Union is the lead sponsor of the Book Fest. For more information, visit


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