Book #9 in the Bookworm Book Club was actually for our second meeting of our second year (2010-2011). The first meeting back in the fall consisted of the members getting back together, seeing how everyone’s summers were, and talking about the books they had read and reported on via the notes on their bookmarks (SUMMER BOOK READ Bookmarks). We also welcomed two new members to our group from my daughter’s new school. As we introduced ourselves, I mentioned that I happened to be in a bookclub going on 15 years. When I commented that this bookclub probably would not be together for that long, one of the boys spoke up and said, “Why not? I want to be in this bookclub for 23 years!” That right there told me that all my effort was worth it.
After that initial meeting, we voted to read a book titled Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. The initial description of this book from one member that had already read it was, “I loved this book! I cried all the way through!” This of course did not impress the boys in the group, but the majority spoke and everyone read the book and in the end did love it.
I think this was the most powerful book we have read to date. It is about a young girl with above average intelligence but cannot easily demonstrate this because she has severe cerebral palsy, confined to a wheelchair, and cannot speak. The entire book is written from inside her head – what she remembers, how people talk to her, and what she thinks about. As a person who has grown up with family members who have mental challenges, this was an accurate account what it’s like to live in this world, told in such a way that a young adult can relate and understand. Can you tell I loved this book?
We started out with discussion questions courtesy of Sharon Draper’s wonderfully interactive website (http://sharondraper.com/). There were a lot of great questions, so although I’ve included them all in the resource sheet, I don’t think we got to them all. The other part of the discussion involved how each person in Melody’s life (the main character) helped her to grow. It was interesting to see everyone realize just how many people influence their lives (friends, family, teachers, neighbours, pets). The resource guide includes both activities (Out of My Mind Discussion Questions). I also gave them a crossword puzzle (Out of My Mind Crossword Puzzle) which they enjoyed as usual.
The final activity was the most enjoyable, however. I wanted the kids to feel how frustrating it is to not be able to communicate like Melody did. I gave each person a message to communicate and had them partner up. Then they had to convey their message with only their hands and reader boards like Melody had. I also had them tie their fingers and thumbs together with rubber bands to simulate not having much control over their hands as well (Out of My Mind – Reader Board Activity). I think it gave the kids a new understanding about how frustrating and tiring any kind of handicap can be. Even the boys had to admit that they enjoyed this book and the meeting!