- Associated Press - Saturday, April 25, 2015

WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) - At the beginning of the school year, Frederick Douglass Elementary School Principal Stephanie Downey was concerned that some of her students might not have enough male role models.

The school has only two male teachers out of a teaching staff of about 45, and some of the school’s students lack male role models at home, she said.

Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Mark Lineburg stepped in and offered to start a book club with some of the male students.

He started meeting with about 10 fourth-graders in October. The all-boy book club, which meets weekly, is reading “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio.

The book focuses on the story of a fifth-grade boy who is born with a facial deformity.



Lineburg said the premise behind the book is that when choosing between doing something right or doing something kind, one should always choose to do something kind.

“The book is great,” he said. “It’s a great message.”

Lineburg said he hosted a book club last year in Bristol, where he worked as a superintendent before accepting his position with Winchester Public Schools. Hosting the book clubs keeps him grounded, he said.

“I think it’s real important as a leader to carve time out of your day for things you really enjoy,” he said.

The book club meets for about 45 minutes a week. The students in the club have a mix of reading skills, but all are students “we felt would benefit from a positive role model in their life,” Downey said.

“They’re getting ready to go to middle school, too, which is a big transition, so the more they see positive role models the better,” she added.

Emerson Ferguson said he thought the club was going to be boring, but now that the group is most of the way through the book, he has changed his mind.

“It’s fun,” he said. “Dr. Lineburg is nice.”

Classmate Xavier Matthews concurred.

“We get to spend time together and we get to read and eat,” he added.

Lineburg said he plans to continue the book club next year.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m going to do it every year.”

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Information from: The Winchester Star, https://www.winchesterstar.com

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