“Ghost” by Jason Reynolds Rocked for Book Discussion

*This is a reblog from our work site, please excuse the work jargon and enjoy. 🙂

For our Chapter Chats program (book club for 3rd-5th graders,) we read Jason Reynold’s Ghost and the discussion was electric. The kids burst into the room anxious to talk about every aspect of the book. They were fascinated by the array of characters, they loved the city setting, they were excited about the race sections of the book and they loved all of the references to sunflower seeds.

Ghost is about a young boy, Castle Crenshaw (Ghost), who has had a difficult childhood. He lives in poverty with his single working mom and is haunted by the memory of being chased by his dad at gunpoint. His father is now in prison. What makes this book different from other issue driven books is that Castle’s past is just background to the real story. It doesn’t beat down the fact that Castle lives in poverty, instead kids are introduced to a complex character who they can relate to as he struggles with school, friendships and making good choices. Castle discovers running and becomes a member of a track team. There he meets true friends, interacts with a compassionate coach who becomes a new father figure for him and grows a level of drive and perseverance which will surely change his life. The book is written in a conversational narrative format, which the kids loved. It ends with a cliffhanger, which led to great discussions of, “what do you think will happen next?”

We always begin our sessions on beanbag chairs and mats in a circle on the floor. This gives kids the freedom to flop a leg or arm over, or as one of the boys likes to do, sit upside with his legs in the air. Comfort seating is a perfect solution for kids who have trouble sitting still. It gives them the freedom to flop and flip while we talk and I’ve found that they’re more vocal when they’re physically comfortable.

I prepared slides to show the kids things referenced in the book that they might not be familiar with, including a short video of Usian Bolt, Ghost’s hero winning the 100-meter race. Other slides included the Guinness Book of World Records, James Brown and track burn.

Each week I supply a small snack for the kids and as Ghost’s obsession is sunflower seeds, the choice for this week was clear. The kids loved every aspect of the seeds as a snack. I bought them shelled and handed them out in a small cup, with a second cup to discard their shells. They experimented with chewing them completely, breaking the shell with their teeth and using their hands to remove the seed.

We closed our meeting with a life-sized game of Candy Land. I had a spinner with colors on it that matched laminated sheets of colored paper. On several of the sheets, I wrote commands that echoed events from the book: Lied to Mom – Lose a Turn, Won the Race – Move Ahead Three Spaces, No Altercations – Spin Again. There were lots of laughs and whoops when someone who had almost won would lose a turn or have to go back to the beginning.

The cost for this Chapter Chats was less than $2 for the sunflower seeds. If I had to purchase the cups and paper it still would have been well under $5. Not bad for one of the best book talks we’ve had this year.


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