Rahway Students Take Part In “Big Read” Events

RAHWAY—This spring, eleventh grade advanced placement students at Rahway High School experienced what it means to be part of a community of readers. Students studied Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” which explores the lives of soldiers in Vietnam.

AP Language and Composition teachers JoAnn Bertelo and Bobbie Wright-Alessi invited veterans into the classroom and took students to attend related events at Kean University. These events were made possible through The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts initiative to promote reading.


Rahway’s AP students were able to travel to Kean’s campus twice for Big Read events encompassing the novel. The first was a professionally-staged theatrical adaptation of the book by the American Place Theater Company, which included pre-show and post-show interactive discussions on March 24. Vietnam veterans in the audience added interesting and valuable perspectives and commentary during these discussions.

On the second trip, students were treated to the experience of a lifetime: they listened to the author himself. O’Brien spoke eloquently on a variety of topics surrounding the book, including Vietnam, fatherhood and storytelling. O’Brien also discussed good writing and gave advice for crafting the perfect sentence.

As a culminating event to The Big Read, several teachers and administrators from local schools attended a dinner and discussion with O’Brien and Kean University faculty and students. The author took time to answer questions and engage in conversation with everyone.

Pictured are Rahway High School students and teachers Karoline Costa, JoAnn Bertelo, Austin Zatorski, Bobbie Wright-Alessi, Ron Stevinson, author Tim O’Brien, Kean professor Dr. Mia Zamora and Kamaria Baysmore during The Big Read event held at Kean University.

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