Calvert Partners with BSO’s OrchKids for Virtual Summer Book Club

Calvert School partnered with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program this summer to provide local middle schoolers with four weeks of virtual book club. 
Led by Calvert parent and Executive Director Raquel Whiting Gilmer, OrchKids is a during- and after-school music program aimed at generating social change and building bright futures for Baltimore students. This summer, the organization offered close to 800 hours of virtual music lessons, enrichment classes, workshops, and book clubs.
As part of the OrchKids partnership, Calvert Spanish teacher Señora Sachar led four groups of avid readers – including eight Calvert students – as they read and discussed the acclaimed graphic novel New Kid. The book, which explores subjects like race and belonging, was chosen to engage middle schoolers and offer them a safe space to discuss current issues.
“I thought it was great to really listen to the different perspectives and see how engaged the kids were,” Señora Sachar said. “The kids were really into listening to each other’s perspectives and talking about them.”
Written and illustrated by award-winning author Jerry Craft, New Kid tells the story of seventh grader Jordan Banks as he struggles with his identity at Riverdale Academy Day School – an upscale institution where he is one of the few kids of color. Through Jordan’s experience, the graphic novel grapples with subjects like friendship, class, racism, and belonging while weaving in moments of humor and charm.
Calvert Eighth Graders Sophie and Julia Bergles, who attended the OrchKids book club, say they learned a lot about these complex issues by following Jordan’s story and participating in group discussions.
“From reading it, I learned about many relevant issues such as racism, stereotypes, and social class through the various encounters of Jordan,” Sophie said. “I also learned that change is very hard, especially when it seems like you are on your own, but there are always people to help you, and as Jordan found, he actually ended up liking his new school.”
These lessons were just the start, though, as students shared personal stories and struggles related to New Kid’s themes, connecting over similar experiences and learning from diverse perspectives.
“They were so honest,” Señora Sachar said. “They were really talking about how they felt and what they understood about the book, sharing how things are where they live and at their school, and I think that gave each of them a window into another kid's life and what the similarities and differences could be.”
For Sophie and Julia, these group discussions proved to be the best, most rewarding part of the OrchKids partnership.
“My favorite part of the book club was bonding with all the other kids and realizing that we are alike in our own ways, despite having different backgrounds,” Julia said.
“I also really enjoyed getting to know students from a different school and learning about their experiences through games and group-led discussions,” Sophie said.
Going forward, Calvert School and OrchKids hope to continue our partnership and provide students in Baltimore with greater opportunities to connect and collaborate.

Click here to learn more about our friends at OrchKids.
Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.