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School Book Clubs Revitalized Through Social Media

Students Tweet, Connect and Learn With Others Across the Country in First-Of-Its-Kind Initiative

By: David Shear
Published: April 5th, 2013 in Culture » Books » News
Survival Kit book cover
Students across Canada are embarking on a first-of-its-kind initiative that connects classes across the country through Twitter.

The Twitter Book Club is a unique one-month project for grades 10, 11 and 12. The five participating schools will engage in real-time conversation with other students across Canada around a new memoir, Survival Kit, written by Holocaust survivor and Toronto resident Zuzana Sermer.

Depending on the school, the Twitter Book Club will be a part of an English, Global Issues or World History class. Every student will read Survival Kit and use their phones, tablets or school computer labs to log into the Twitter chat. Student comments and questions will receive real-time feedback from other students across the country as well as the Azrieli Foundation, the publisher of the memoir and coordinator of the online forum. This project provides students with an opportunity to interact with the ideas and opinions of peers miles away - creating an online conversation that expands beyond the walls of the classroom, creating a dynamic new engagement with the survivor's story.

The social media book club will also integrate photos, historical information, maps and commentary into the interactive reading, using the hashtag #survivalkit to connect all tweets and participants. It will focus on connecting the struggles of the Holocaust to modern-day issues facing new Canadians by placing a strong emphasis on belonging, exclusion and what it means to be Canadian, and will bring learning into a medium and setting in which today’s students are comfortable and capable, out in the social web.

“This is an opportunity for students to reach out to a global audience about the importance of Holocaust education,” said Jessie Mann, English, Global Media Studies Teacher at Holy Rosary HS in Lloydminster, Alberta and one of the five teachers participating in the project. “Getting youth to be passionate about history will ensure they become lifelong learners who have empathy and want to ensure that atrocities like this do not continue. Learning should be engaging and exciting and by using this medium and connecting students from across the country, it’s an interactive way to read and share.”

Sermer’s moving, sensitive and thoughtful story is an account of a 15-year-old girl surviving in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and Hungary during the Second World War in the only way she knew how, by fighting to protect her father and her ailing mother. Being an only child made it easier to survive in hiding. But, her mother passes away and her father is eventually sent to a forced labour camp. It is then that she meets Arthur Sermer, the man she will eventually marry and they flee to Budapest, Hungary. When Hungary is occupied in March 1944, Zuzana and Arthur navigate through treacherous situations by first passing as Polish gentiles with false documents and then surviving both transit camps and prison. They manage to live through the 1945 siege of Budapest, only to find themselves under the new challenges of post-war communist rule. They married in July that year and lived under an oppressive regime in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia for twenty-three years, raising four children. In 1968, when the Soviets occupied the country, the family fled to Canada.

The Twitter Book Club is a pilot project of the Azrieli Foundation. If successful it will be rolled out to additional schools in coming months.


Related articles: School Book Club, Social Media, Students, Twitter, Holocaust, Survival Kit, Azrieli Foundation
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