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West Jordan Journal

‘Ghost’ comes alive for students at West Jordan Middle School

May 05, 2021 09:23AM ● By Jet Burnham

West Jordan Middle School staff members prepare for two weeks of reading, discussions and activities around the book “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds. (Tara Pearce/WJMS)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Over the next two weeks, the book “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds will come alive for students and staff members at West Jordan Middle School as they read it together and then participate in activities based on the story.

The book is about a 13-year old-boy, called Ghost, who joins a track team and changes the direction of his troubled life.

Students will snack on sunflower seeds—Ghost’s favorite treat—as they read portions of the book each day in class. Once they have finished, WJMS will host track and field events and a student vs. teacher kickball game. In the book, Ghost gets a lot of support from his coach and other adults in his life. WJMS students will get the opportunity to write thank-you notes to adults who support them in their lives. They’ll also be invited to create chalk art inspired by the book and to share their ideas for a soundtrack and cast of actors for a movie based on the book.

“We're trying to really just make it fun for the students, especially in the year of COVID when we haven't had opportunity to do as many fun things,” event coordinator Tara Pearce said.

While public health restrictions limit community and family involvement, local leaders and celebrities—such as University of Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham, First Lady of Utah Abby Cox, actor Corbin Allred, Rep. Cheryl Acton, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey and local school board members—will send in videos of themselves reading parts of the book aloud.

Once everyone has finished reading the book, Reynolds, who serves as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, will talk with students in a virtual assembly.

“The kids will be able to ask him questions and hear some of his take on things,“ Pearce said.

The reading and activities will run from May 3–17, part of the national One Book, One School program. The activity is truly a “one-school” activity, bringing together all adults in the school—including office staff and the school resource officer—to read the book and participate in the discussions and activities.

Teachers of all subjects will be taking time during their classes to read with students. WJMS librarian Lisa Morey said the hope is that students see reading as something to enjoy, not just a school assignment.

“This is an opportunity to talk about a book that you've read in your math class or your band class or with a class that isn't your English class,” she said. “They'll have a shared book that everybody can talk about, and it makes a big difference in their life. I don't know that it'll change any kid from a nonreader to a reader, but what if it does?”

Principal Dixie Garrison said two weeks focused on the book will be a nice change from all the digital learning this year.

“It will put a real book in their hands, rather than doing some sort of online activity,” she said. “We've had so much screen time this year, it will be nice to just close the screen and read the book.”

“Ghost” is a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature and the first in a four-book series. Reynolds has also written several other books for teenage readers.

“He's a very relevant, contemporary writer, and him being a minority, we felt like he had a little greater appeal to our diverse student body,” Garrison said. “The subject is a little bit more engaging for young males, who are not as inclined to read as much.”

Morey said the book has a relatable message for WJMS students.

“‘Ghost’ is about a kid who succeeds against a lot of odds,” she said. “He's got a lot of strikes against him when the book starts, and then he gets to be part of a track team. The fact that it's track, the fact that it's a team, the fact that there are adults that are in his corner all make a big difference. And so we thought that also would be a good message for our students— life can be hard, but they can do hard things.”