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Imani Book Club builds reading skills and confidence  

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At the Imani Book Club, students are building more than just reading comprehension skills.  

Thanks to interactive programs and passionate facilitators, student participants are building confidence and appreciation for reading, too.  

The Imani Book Club is one of many programs offered by the Center for Leadership Development, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching minority youth.  

The club gives three groups of students — junior level (fourth to sixth grade), intermediate level (seventh to eight grade) and senior level (ninth to twelfth grade) — the opportunity to read books, learn reading and writing strategies, and make new friends.  

“It’s definitely taught me a lot of new vocabulary and ways to strategize your reading, but I wouldn’t say I was a poor reader when I came,” said Mariah Johnson, rising eighth grader at The Oaks Academy who is participating for her second year. “The books are really good, and both years they have been challenging and have a lot of new ways for us to look at things.”  

students look at a black and white painting
Imani Book Club students from the 2023 class admire a work of art on a field trip. (Photo provided/ Center for Leadership Development)

Outside of meeting new characters through reading, Johnson said “getting the chance to connect with more people” has been one of her favorite parts of the club.  

“I feel like our whole class is friends,” Johnson said.  

Her facilitator, Chanelle Jones, who is also at the club for a second nonsequential year, echoed this.   

“It’s touching,” Jones said. “It really is. The kids are great.”  

An avid reader herself, Jones said one of the highlights is seeing her students learn to love reading.  

“I love seeing them engage with the characters,” Jones said.  

Helping them engage with the books are interactive elements included in the curriculum by the program coordinator, A’Mya Springer.  

In addition to learning about literary figures like Langston Hughes each week, Springer said that each group will have an interactive experience at the end of the program that relates to the book they’re reading.  

The junior level students, who are reading “Cookies and Milk” by Shawn Amos, will end their program by having a cooking class. The intermediate level group’s program, who are reading “Between the Lines” by Nikki Grimes, a book about poetry, will culminate in a poetry slam. The senior level students, who are reading “Love Radio” by Ebony Ladelle, will finish their program after meeting a local DJ.  

“You want to be on age level, but you want to make sure it’s interactive but also challenging as well… and enjoyable for everyone,” Springer said.  

One of the Imani Book Club students, Caleb Klaman, a rising sixth grader at Sycamore School that is also returning for his second year, said the interactive elements have helped him “like reading a bit more.”  

“Usually reading is kind of boring because you’re reading books that could be foreign to you,” Klaman said. “But the people at CLD try to make the books fun and entertaining for everyone.”  

a man talks to three kids in front of artwork
An Imani Book Club facilitator discusses artwork with students at Newfields. (Photo provided/ Center for Leadership Development)

As a result, Klaman said he’s starting to enjoy reading longer books than he did before. 

Kraig Kinchen, a facilitator for Klaman’s age group who returned for his fifth year, said seeing students appreciate reading more is one of the most rewarding aspects.  

“I come back because I want students to become proficient in reading,” Kinchen said. “I’m looking for that spark of light in a kid’s eyes when they look like they’re getting something.”  

Kinchen said to help his students enjoy reading, he “models what it looks like,” and shows students how they can explore their interests through literature.  

For Kinchen and other facilitators, love of reading isn’t the only skill that they’re building. The “joy of discussion” is another trait being taught to students, he said. 

“I make sure they know I appreciate their curiosity and insights,” Kinchen said. “I want them to leave class thinking ‘I’m a good thinker,’ and I want them to read outside of class and to read consistently.”  

Making sure the students feel confident in their intelligence is one of the many traits Kinchen hopes the students take away.  

“I want the kids to feel celebrated for their intellect,” Kinchen said. 

Registration for the Imani Book Club opens in January and can be found at cldinc.org/events/imani-book-club.  

Contact Indianapolis Recorder intern, Kayla Barlow, at kaylab@indyrecorder.com.  

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