Watertown New York named RTT’s 2015 Model District
Congratulations to Watertown, N.Y., Read to Them’s 2015 District of the Year. We salute Watertown for pioneering and implementing One District, One Book on the ‘Year Round Reader’ model. Under the leadership of Assistant Superintendent, Mary Margaret-Zehr, Watertown has created a culture of literacy for its 2,500 elementary and middle school families.
With the support of her Superintendent, Terry Fralick, Watertown’s five elementary schools and one middle school read two books in 2014 – Betty Birney’s The World According to Humphrey and Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain. Then in 2015 Watertown went all the way and read and shared three titles with their families over the course of the entire school year – Andrew Clements’ Frindle; Betty Birney’s Humphrey sequel, Friendship According to Humphrey; and R. J. Palacio’s miraculous middle school tweener title, Wonder.
The impact of this level of saturation can be seen and heard everywhere in Watertown. Zehr made sure that all local media and social media were well aware of the One District, One Book initiative. She appeared on numerous radio and TV interviews. Watertown’s six participating schools were each decked out in their own fashion – anticipating the arrival of Humphrey the hamster; drumming up curiosity and mystery and enthusiasm for each new title; and sharing in-school and in-class activities designed by Read to Them and implementing them with each school’s own special spin.
Watertown received an educational grant from the Cornell Continuing School of Education to serve their military population from nearby Fort Drum, and held a family literacy night to celebrate their titles that shocked all with its attendance and impact. Superintendent Terry Fralick called it “the most successful school community event in recent memory.”
Zehr also went beyond the call of duty to create enthusiasm and awareness for their family literacy effort by recruiting a guest star from the X-Men films as well as both the U.S. Secretary of the Army and the N.Y. Commissioner for Education to read sample chapters.
Zehr herself reports, “We know of no other program as effective as Read to Them at developing literacy in elementary and middle schools. Students want more and more and more books.”
It is for all these reasons – their ambition; their thorough engagement and implementation with multiple titles; their use of so many forms of promotion and documentation, implemented city-wide and within each school; and the obvious results and effects, in the city, in each school, and in all those families and homes – that Read to Them is proud to announce Watertown, N.Y. as its Year Round Reader standard-bearer and its 2015 One District, One Book District of the Year.
Take a bow MMZ and Watertown!