A group of Dowling Elementary School third-graders get a chance to meet with Principal Julie Marshall every day for Third Grade Reading Club.

Marshall met with a group of eight on a recent Tuesday morning in a conference room. This is the fourth week the club has met and they meet as often as possible during the week, Marshall said.

The students had just read “A to Z Mysteries The Absent Author” and were about to start “A to Z Mysteries The Bald Bandit.”

Monica Martinez, 8, reads aloud from her chapter book as she takes part in her third grade book club Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Dowling Elementary School. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

When the students finished Absent Author, they took it back their room and took a test on the computer.

It takes about two weeks to get through one of the books. When they finish the first three books in the series, Marshall plans to start another group.

“Today, we’re going to start the next book in our series,” Marshall said, referring to the Bald Bandit.

To be selected for the club, Marshall said the students had to apply by filling out an application, have their parents sign it and write an essay about why they wanted to be in the club.

“… I actually got about 30 applications for third grade. I went through and read all the essays and I picked out the essays that were the most compelling at this time. And so when we finish the three books that we’re going to read then I’ll do the next group of third graders, but we’re going to read the first three books in this series and then we’ll start another group,” Marshall said.

Third grade is the first year they take their state assessments and they have not had a regular school year since they were in the first grade, so Marshall said they are really working on students’ reading this year and their stamina.

She noted that students should be reading on grade level by the end of third grade and most of the club will be there.

Principal of Dowling Elementary School Julie Marshall, left, presents a the chapter book “The Absent Author” by Ron Roy to her third grade book club Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Odessa. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

“… It’s really a great chance for me to … get 30 minutes at the beginning of the day to be with kids and get to know them on a more personal level than in a room of 22 kids, or at lunch,” Marshall said.

Madison Sotelo said she likes the club because she loves reading.

Josiah Fay said the club is actually fun because “it helps us learn to read.”

Monica Martinez said she likes it because they get to read all kinds of chapter books. It also makes her feel more grown up.

Zenaida Escobar is a bilingual student in the club.”I know that her teacher really encouraged the kids in the bilingual class … to join the book club because they’re really working in third grade they start transitioning to reading in English, so I’m super proud that she applied and that she joined us,” Marshall said.

Marshall said her Assistant Principal San Juana Guiterrez helmed the book club when Marshall was out and now wants to start her own group with a different grade.

“… Y’all inspired Ms. Guiterrez to start her own,” Marshall said.