Project LIT brings Timber Ridge readers together

Ellerbroek Lit Club

Timber Ridge fifth grade students and their teacher Troy Ellerbroek (far right) engage in discussion about the book “Efran Divided,” by Ernesto Cisneros.

Timber Ridge fifth grade teacher Troy Ellerbroek is constantly looking for ways to bring his students together while also celebrating their individualism. An avid reader himself, when Ellerbroek came across the Project LIT community, he thought it would be a good fit for his students.

Project LIT was started by Jarred Amato, a high school English teacher in Nashville, TN and his students as a way to “eliminate book deserts and promote a love of reading in our community.” The founders “believe wholeheartedly in the power of reading and in its ability to bring people together and transform lives.”

Ellerbroek said he feels strongly about bringing more diverse literature into the classroom. Each month during the school year, a group of his students gets a new Project LIT middle grade novel. On a weekly basis, they meet as a small group to discuss the assigned reading, connection to the story, and themes they see in the book.

“I love that in each book, we are encountering diversity in the characters to foster questions, conversations, and reflection in students,” said Ellerbroek.

The students are fully immersed in this small-group setting, actively listening to one another, sharing their own perspectives or experiences, and respectfully offering different viewpoints. At various points throughout the year, the students have been able to do a Zoom call with the author of the book they’re reading.

“It’s been really cool to talk to the author, understand where they got their ideas, and where they’re coming from,” said one of Ellerbroek’s students. “Sometimes it’s a little intimidating, but they are nice and encourage us to keep reading and writing about things in our lives.”

Lit club2

Students in Troy Ellerbroek’s fifth grade class at Timber Ridge have expanded their reading list through the Project LIT book club.

According to Project LIT, there are more than 1,700 Project LIT chapters across the nation. A few of the primary goals of the group are to:

  • Read, discuss, and celebrate books that make our students feel seen, heard, affirmed, and valued;
  • Develop our cultural competence and expand our thinking, regardless of individual starting point;
  • Amplify voices and stories of students and educators of

“Project LIT has been a great way to introduce students to new books, new authors, and the diverse experiences of others,” Ellerbroek said. “These students will transition to a larger school next year when they go to Summit and I think having appreciation and knowledge of the many ways lives can be different is helpful.”