Every month, the Booksource Book Club meets to discuss a different classroom library title. It’s always interesting to share our (often diverse) opinions on a given book, and debate the many ways it might be used to engage students as readers. One of our most recent reads, Lola StVil’s Girls Like Me, presented an interesting discussion regarding how a book with some mature subject matter might be used in a classroom setting.
Have you ever read through someone else’s emails or a text conversation?
The experience is unparalleled, as you assemble meaning from the abbreviated language and discourse. Reading Girls Like Me by Lola StVil is a similar experience.
StVil combines the unique format of a novel-in-verse with chat threads to create a fun and breezy read about some serious topics. While she explores many heavy subjects like death, sex, teen angst, LGBT themes and bullying, this story is ultimately about how 15-year-old Shay Summers discovers herself—and romance—all while coping with her father’s recent death.
Lola StVil’s Girls Like Me as a Mentor Text for Writing
Thanks to the book’s language and format StVil, several of the passages in Girls Like Me lend themselves to being used as a mentor text for writing. Just take a look at this excerpt from the text:
Have you ever heard of Mary Ellen Ledbetter’s Smiley Face Tricks to help students become more creative in their writing? From the Magic Three to hyphenated modifiers to expanded moments, StVil employs many of these techniques in Girls Like Me.
To use Lola StVil’s Girls Like Me as a mentor text for writing in your class, remember that you don’t need to read the entire book. Even a page or a paragraph can serve as a mentor text. What matters is that students learn to identify elements of good writing during a whole class lesson (be sure to provide plenty of modeling), and then practice incorporating those elements as they write a piece of their own.
Can you and your students identify the many lines where StVil uses the Magic Three?
Outrage. Anger. Protest. (page 4)
Enchant. Amaze. Delight. (page 6)
What about hyphenated modifiers? (Students often love these, because they are basically made-up-words!)
Super-high-gloss-finish (page 6)
For dessert we both had the caramelized Next-time-I-will-call-your-parents. (page 9)
And don’t forget expanded moments. There are many in Girls Like Me, including the visually drawn out MARCHES on page 4.
Once you’ve identified instances where StVil uses different Smiley Face Tricks in her writing, ask students to identify what these devices add to the story. How do the techniques help us understand the narrator for example? Do they add to the emotion we feel as we read?
Now, it’s your students turn. Can they incorporate some of these same techniques into their writing? Encourage them to give it a try.
Lola StVil’s Girls Like Me as an Independent Read
Because parts of Girls Like Me discuss mature topics, some teachers may feel that it’s not the best book to use as a mentor text in a whole class setting. StVil keeps many overly-explicit details at a distance, but topics like sex and LGBT themes are explored. The book’s suggested interest level is grades 7-12.
While the passages referenced above do not mention any of the book’s heavier themes, depending on the ages of your students, you’ll have to decide for yourself how to best use this book in your classroom. If you aren’t comfortable introducing a book to students that could potentially lead to questions on some mature topics, Girls Like Me could also be used as a classroom library book for students to read independently.
Reluctant readers who choose this book as an independent read will especially be comforted by the white space on each page and brief text language. However, given the novel-in-verse and poetic format, the Lexile level is simply NP (non-prose), so the title will not fit well with leveled reading programs.
Other independent reading applications include summer reading, or a high-low addition to book clubs on thematic units like bullying or coming of age. Any independent reader who appreciates young love and happy endings will not be disappointed. And any teacher looking for a mentor text for writing will find a strong resource in several of the passages from Lola StVil’s Girls Like Me.
Note: Girls Like Me does contain mature themes. No matter how you choose to use this particular book in your classroom, parents should be made aware that some books in middle school or high school libraries contain more mature content. Encourage them to be involved in and aware of their child’s reading choices. (For reference, take a look at this letter that Penny Kittle sends to parents at the beginning of the school year.)