OSOB Bridges Pre-K – 8th Grades in North Carolina Schools

One of the biggest challenges schools face in launching a One School, One Book program is making the event engaging for students of all ages. The staff at Smyrna Elementary and Down East Middle School in Smyrna, North Carolina have spent years getting this feat down to a science. 

“Some staff and students have been on a selection committee which helps decide which book is right for us,” says Dawn Simpson, the school librarian at both Smyrna Elementary (pre-K-5) and Down East Middle School (6-8). “Having a united mission and buzz about a book is just a wonderful motivator.”

Families loved reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane together!

OSOB was first launched separately in the two schools with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at Smyrna Elementary and Love that Dog at Down East Middle in 2019. Both schools read Summer of the Monkeys in 2020, and in 2021, Simpson boasts the schools held a “true community read aloud” with Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. 

Each read is prefaced by visuals that count down to the title reveal, culminating in a large assembly. Read to Them posters are hung around the schools, and staff’s excitement in and out of the classroom aids in building a wave of anticipation among students. 

“Winter has been a successful time of year [for our reading events] because the daylight is shorter and families are indoors for longer in the evenings,” Simpson shares. “Staff answer trivia and win prizes or get shout outs just like the kids. Summer of the Monkeys had all of my male staff competing even my self proclaimed non-reader P.E. Coach!” 

A commemorative poster with families reading together for the 2021 OSOB

For one read, Simpson had a grant for creating custom t-shirts. She was able to showcase these shirts in local businesses, getting managers, doctors, and restaurant workers to read along with their school. It was incredibly touching for Simpson to hear stories of students seeing their program shirts showcased in a variety of local businesses. 

Most vitally, Simpson has a passion for promoting literacy for all of her students, not just younger grades. 

“One of the stigmas I work to get rid of for [middle school students] is just because you may not like to read long novels, does not mean you can’t read or don’t like to read,” Simpson says. “It’s easy to get the young readers excited because everything is new as they open the pages and discover a new favorite character or subject. As they enter middle school, life is busier with after school activities so it is important to meet them where their interests are. Magazines, ebooks, podcasts, short stories, and books that go deeper into their favorite series become the pathway to build lifelong readers.”

Knowing and understanding the interests of reluctant readers is vital to purchasing books that will get checked out of the library rather than collect dust on the shelves. Simpson even keeps a running list of student requests to guide her when ordering new books. 

Simpson also has the notable distinction of being an educator who implements OSOB in her schools as well as a member of Read to Them’s Book Selection Committee. Her time on the committee has caused her to read with varied purposes, with her top priority being to always read the entire book. 

“Just being in a school setting daily keeps a pulse on what content students might find engaging,” Simpson says, referring to the unique perspective she offers the Book Selection Committee. “Actually working through the whole process of school selection, the TItle I  purpose of family engagement and not just being satisfied with middle school students reading it on their own, makes me look for titles that evoke emotion where they will discuss with their family.” 

Simpson’s passion for literacy is clear in the way she reads aloud. In her experience, changing inflection and tone helps a student comprehend what is happening as dialogue changes. Her position across two schools grants her the opportunity to pair middle school students for read-alouds with younger students. Though they aren’t yet back in a position to continue these pairings in-person, Simpson keeps a love for books alive by connecting students with authors as often as possible. 

“That was one of the bright spots of the virtual time of the pandemic that authors were so generous with their time,” Simpson shares. “Zooming for free at what I titled “Eat & Meet” where students came in during their lunch time to meet an author. Literacy comes alive as the author shares their writing process!”

Simpson claims that the love for OSOB has never wavered, even amid school closures and the shift to and from virtual learning. Families remain connected throughout the read by sharing photos of them reading together to social media, and these photos are collected to become a framed collage in the school’s entry. It’s as if a ripple goes through the community, something Simpson attributes to getting other schools jumping on board with OSOB

“Last year as the kids picked up their Chromebooks to work from home, a father and daughter walked past the OSOB collage,” Simpson recalls. “My library door was open and I heard a father ask his daughter, “Do you think we are going to read our school book this year?” Luckily they peeked their head in and found out that in-person or virtual… YES, we will always do an OSOB!” 


10 Years of OSOB at Walnut Ridge Elementary

For the last decade, students at Walnut Ridge Elementary in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas have bolstered their curriculum by celebrating an annual One School, One Book event. The school-wide program is considered the highlight of the year. 

OSOB has impacted our students by cultivating a love of reading that extends beyond elementary school,” shares Jessica Light, the Dyslexia Therapist and English Language Learner (ELL) teacher at Walnut Ridge. “Last year, our middle school librarian wanted to include her students in the month of reading and those students really loved it. The middle school students had always been a part of OSOB in elementary [school] and missed the reading and activities that go along with the book.” 

Students eagerly watch an assembly on-stage

A love for reading and reading aloud has truly spread to the community around Walnut Ridge. According to Light, parents ask what the upcoming title will be months before the book is revealed to students. “They loved being able to share the time with their kids,” says Light. The county library provides reading times and a craft with each book and the high school’s Key Club students to read with students who may not have been read to at home. 

During Walnut Ridge’s ten years of participating in One School, One Book, the school has read a wide-variety of books, including: The BFG, Charlotte’s Web, The Cricket in Times Square, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Pie, The One and Only Ivan, The Wild Robot, Kenny and the Dragon, and the Chocolate Touch. 

The stunning stage decorations for Cricket in Time Square (2014-15)

“The year we read The BFG,” says Light. “Students were drawing pictures with sidewalk chalk at recess of the book. [We] decorated our stage with scenes from the book throughout the month of reading. As a prize, students may select to eat their lunch on the stage in the scene – and they love this prize.” 

Ensuring that students get an unforgettable reading experience is a labor of love for Light and the staff at Walnut Ridge. Light explains that planning early is essential – the road to selecting a book for their school begins in October. 

“It’s so important to find a group of faculty or staff that love reading and books,” advises Light. “This group of people are invaluable when planning and prepping for the weeks of reading to come. If [the staff] love it, they will project it to the students and they, in turn, get excited for the book.” 

The committee of staff at Walnut Ridge usually begins the selection process by choosing 3 to 5 titles, and encourages the committee to read at least two of the suggested books. In November, the committee votes on a book so that the selected title can be ordered in a timely manner and decorations can be planned to their fullest extent. 

A staff member generates hype for the 2020 OSOB event – The One and Only Ivan

“The first year we decorated one spot in our school. It wasn’t very centrally located,” shares Light, reflecting on one of the most notable evolutions from their first read to the most recent.  “We have now started decorating every hallway and our cafeteria stage. To pique the students’ interest in the title of the book, before it is revealed, we play clues on the morning announcements. The kids love it and talk about it throughout the day. Our end of book celebrations have turned into an all-day event with games, movies, snacks, and many other activities.” 

T-shirts are also a staple for OSOB at Walnut Ridge. The district purchases shirts for the faculty and staff, giving students and parents the option to purchase them as well. Profits from these shirts provide the funds for prizes for trivia winners. Light shares that, in the last few years, the t-shirts have also featured an inspirational quote from the book. 

Staff donned special shirts to commemorate the inaugural OSOB read of Charlotte’s Web (2013-14)

While the pandemic has brought so many other events to a halt, Light found a way to both suit her student’s needs and ensure OSOB remained a staple at her school.

“We had a time set up for our students who were virtual to come by and pick up a book and reading schedules,” explains Light. “We [even] made a schedule for our end-of-book celebration that allowed for social distancing.” 

As she looks ahead, Light is hopeful that they can adapt OSOB for the high school students in their community. These are students that have “been through our elementary school participating yearly” and before their graduation, Light says that she “would love to see them come back” for another reading program catered to their reading levels. She is hopeful that the high school administration and librarian will be brought on board, and be as eager as she is to launch yet another reading adventure for the students in her community.


7 Read Aloud Tips to Engage Your Listener

Some parents are reluctant to read aloud because they lack the confidence, find it intimidating, or just struggle to find the time. To help out – and in tandem with Read Aloud to a Child Week – Read to Them is sharing seven strategies to build confidence and help keep young listeners engaged. 

 

Finding the time to read aloud from a picture book is a much different task than sitting down to read a novel. For one, a picture book can be read in one sitting while a novel – even a Sweet Spot title – will require multiple sessions. Deciding on a daily reading time with your family is one way to slowly, but surely make reading a priority. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or just before bed, by committing to reading aloud each day, you’ll soon find everyone is eager to hear what comes next in the story. 

 

When approaching a read aloud, it’s so important to understand the tone of a book. What kind of themes does the story explore? What kind of language does it use? Is the protagonist bubbly and goofy or more reserved, inclined to a lot of internal dialogue? For The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, you might adopt a slower or even pensive reading style but for Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, you could slip into a warm, celebratory voice. Being flexible and adapting to each book can bring a read aloud to just the right level. 

 

When reading aloud, have fun with the language in your book. During suspenseful sections… slow… down. Let the suspense… build. When there is a meaningful moment, pause to let the scene’s impact truly settle between you and your listener. (Pay attention to every mark of punctuation.) In Elana K. Arnold’s A Boy Called Bat, you wouldn’t want to rush through the scene where Bat is first able to meet his mother’s gaze and studies the color of her eyes. But you wouldn’t want to meander during a scene that’s bubbling over with joy and laughter, either. Think of reading aloud as a performance – and let the show begin! 

 

Another wonderful thing about books? They offer a window into the lives of cultures, histories, and experiences that you and your listener may not be familiar with. Diving into Where the Mountain Meets the Moon will allow you to engage with Chinese folktales at the heart of Grace Lin’s novel. Stepping onto the pages of Joseph Bruchac’s Rez Dogs plants readers onto a Native American reservation and the unforgettable dynamics the people in this community share with one another. Having access to stories from a broad array of voices is so vital in nourishing your child’s sense of empathy and understanding. It also allows opportunities to explore moral or ethical questions as a family that might otherwise go unanswered without direct engagement.

 

Books – especially children’s literature – are vital in that they are safe places for young scholars to engage with a wide-range of emotions. Anger. Sadness. Joy. Frustration. A lot of young readers have their first brush with grief when Charlotte passes away and Wilbur reels in the wake of her absence in Charlotte’s Web. You don’t want those sort of opportunities to be lost, so understanding a scene and letting your voice reflect the emotion the scene demands will help create a more meaningful reading experience. 

 

 

Reading aloud is a great opportunity to let loose and be silly. You’re engaging with the text – not reciting a monologue! Take the UK audiobook for the Harry Potter books for example. Stephen Fry gives the characters very distinct voices: Hagrid sounds gruff and low-toned, Dumbledore is airy but clear, and Hermione’s lines are spoken smartly, clipped to make her words sound exact and wise. With books that have sprawling casts, establishing these distinctions makes it easier for the reader to keep up. You can use mannerisms and dramatic pauses to keep readers immersed in the dialogue. It might be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort to make your story truly come alive. 

 

It can be so easy to lose yourself in a book, so it’s worth taking a pause from time to time to ensure your listener is still with you. It won’t necessarily derail the story. Perhaps several new characters were introduced – use this moment to distinguish those characters from one another. It could be that the protagonist has arrived at a moment of internal conflict. Try having a brief dialogue about what your child might do in this situation or encourage your child to make a prediction about what choice the protagonist might make. Interact with your listener and enrich the reading experience for the both of you.

 

The important thing to keep in mind is this: reading aloud is not meant to be a chore. It’s about sharing stories, and embracing the togetherness that comes from diving into a book with someone you love. Have fun, be silly, and enjoy yourselves. 

Happy reading! 


Capitalizing on the Pandemic for Positive Learning

This is a guest post by Mary Curcio, NYS Regional Coordinator. 

We all know children have suffered losses in student learning during the pandemic.  However, research suggests that by using the right parent support tools, it is possible to mitigate or offset these losses by compensating and enriching student learning. Read to Them’s family literacy programs provide some of these necessary, dynamic tools to help parents and schools create actual new learning opportunities while the pandemic persists.

Students returning in the fall of 2021 may be up to a year behind in age-appropriate reading levels, as confirmed by a recent study by the McKinsey firm.  Based on their assessment, students have lost at least 3 months of learning in reading during spring 2020. Students could lose five to nine months of learning by the end of June 2021: for students of color, it could be up to twelve months. Some of our most vulnerable children will enter first grade without ever attending kindergarten-a crucial, primary year in preparing children for school.

Reading regression and the summer slide have always been an issue for students, and both have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Even more troubling, students at risk – students of color and poorer students – have suffered even larger gaps in their reading skills. Addressing the loss of those skills will require more than interventions from school districts. 

You know that old expression, “It takes a village…”

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is focused on improving student success in reading. They know parents want opportunities, access to information, support, and tools to succeed in their new roles as teachers at home. “Left unattended, learning loss especially in the early grades could further compromise the prospects for a generation of vulnerable children whose future is already at risk.”

When schools closed, it was up to parents to navigate digital tools like Zoom and other learning resources provided by school districts. This was a challenge for families, but they committed to helping their children learn.  However, as the pandemic limps on, school leaders have seen family engagement waning.

Recent research from the Columbia Law School for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) found student learning and engagement during the pandemic benefitted students when school districts partnered with parents. They completed over three-hundred interviews and discovered that with proper family support and quality instructional materials, students learned the same amount as in a normal school year.

Read to Them supports the premise of the CPRL Report by offering schools and families the literacy materials and tools they need to make reading enjoyable. Our programs give parents an opportunity to read with their children outside of school walls, to gather and share a story together in the warmth of the home. 

Families were heavily involved with their children’s learning last year; their involvement is still needed to resolve setbacks in children’s learning. Research shows that children perform better academically with family support.  With continued parent and community engagement with schools, it is entirely possible that children can reach their projected reading level.


Theme Announcement for Read Aloud to a Child Week

Every year during the last week of October, Read to Them sponsors Read Aloud to a Child Week, a national event to showcase the importance of reading aloud to children and to encourage families to read together. For over 20 years, Read Aloud to a Child Week has been a stress-free way to engage with the literacy community. It truly is as simple as selecting books of your choice and reading aloud as a family. 

The 2021 event will run from October 24 – 30th, which is right around the corner. Be sure to mark your calendar— you won’t want to miss it! 

This past May, you had the opportunity to vote for the Read Aloud to a Child Week theme yourself. Read to Them is pleased to announce that the 2021 theme is GRATITUDE!

Now is the time to recognize and thank the people in our lives who’ve helped us through this trying year. Identify the moments and people who bring you joy. Reflect on the positive parts of your everyday life, any part that brings you joy. Be it the big, small, and in-between things, you’ll have the opportunity to ask your children: Who are you grateful for? Where do you find the light when the world feels dark? Who do you want to thank? 

Below are five picture books and five chapter books that embody gratitude in one way or another. For a more extensive list, be sure to check out the Read Aloud to a Child Week program page

Picture Books Chapter Books
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
We are Grateful: Ostaliheliga by Traci Sorell Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
The Ramble Shamble Children by Christina Soontornvat Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins

For the latest Read Aloud to a Child Week updates, be sure to follow Read to Them on Facebook for more information as the event draws nearer. We hope you’re eager to read with us! 


A Parting Thanks to the Incomparable Chris Dudley

Chris working hard at Read to Them’s old office

Chris Dudley came to work for Read to Them in December of 2014. He was Read to Them’s sixth employee.  Like many who work for Read to Them, especially in the early days, he came to do one thing only to turn into a human swiss army knife.  He was an invaluable part of Read to Them’s startling growth over that period.  Chris elected to step away from Read to Them this summer, and so we must say goodbye and pay tribute to his myriad contributions over these seven years.

Chris came to assist our Executive Director at the end of 2014,  but we quickly learned that the guy who once had A READER as his license plate had more to contribute than helping with accounts.  Chris brought a deep-seated love of children’s literature with him, something he displayed every day he worked and contributed at Read to Them.

Chris helped read and especially recommend books.  He continues to make it a personal project to read every Newbery Medal AND Honor winning books. All of them. As well as Pulitzers, National Book Awards, Scott O’Dells, Corretta Scott Kings, and the Pura Belprés…  The man is dedicated – and Read to Them was fortunate to reap the benefits. For an organization that likes to recommend books, what will we do without our #1 book recommender?!

Chris is a tenacious problem solver.  With no special training in graphics or software or web design or office system interfaces, Chris was tireless and dedicated, dogged and creative, in helping us solve and manage a plethora of technical challenges.  He was the go to guy, and such people are rarely properly appreciated: Chris, we appreciate you!  And thank you!  Again and again.

Chris keeping the shipping area in tip-top shape

As Read to Them continued to grow, Chris took on the responsibility of our burgeoning shipping tasks.  Ordering bookmarks and posters (for over 150 books on our list!) and stickers, organizing and keeping track of them (are those bookmarks banded in bundles of 100?) – and shipping them out to each client school.  He also trained and supervised an evolving array of volunteers and high school and college interns with good cheer and reliability.

Chris is also a master proofreader – no mean task at an organization with an array of writers, a bevy of books, and an atmosphere of bookishness all around.  Just when we thought the newsletter was ready to go, Chris might come in for a ‘final check’ and catch a bunch of inconsistent em dashes and irregularly aligned columns.  Chris was always the real final check and the standard of those who aspired to proofreader pride measured themselves against.

Chris is a natural librarian and while pursuing a degree in Library Science, he served as a part-time Librarian in nearby Henrico County until fatherhood – and the demands of Read to Them – pulled him away.

One of Chris’s favorite place to grab a bite from – Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen

Chris is a foodie.  He doesn’t love to cook it, but he does love to read about it and talk about it and eat it. Whenever Read to Them staff convened convivially, Chris was there to suggest a puzzle, or a game of Scrabble, or a round of Trivia HQ.  He functioned as a vital morale officer for all of us.

Chris working with staff to pack an order for a state read

In his last year with Read to Them, Chris helped create our Book Selection Committee, reading about dozens of new (and old) children’s books. Their merits are debated, their strengths and weaknesses for reading aloud assessed; the potential for sharing at home and reading across a broad population taken into consideration over an intense reading period.  As is natural to the Book Selection Committee, Chris was always passionate – and always a reliable resource for publisher information, paperback status, and Spanish translations.  While we cry, “What will we do without him?”, in fact we are blessed that Chris has agreed to stay on  as a volunteer  and continue to serve on our Book Selection Committee.

It’s fitting that he is leaving us to take more personal care of his young daughters, who he affectionately refers to as Thing One and Thing Two, to be a family man to his wife and mother, and to explore some entrepreneurial ideas simmering in his creative mind.

Thank you, Chris, for seven unforgettable and vital years. And good fortune to you as you tread a new path through the world. Holy bagumba!


Take a Look at Our New Fall Titles

Read to Them is always looking to add new, exciting titles to our library – as you might recall from the book selection overview piece. We invite you to explore these seven titles, from both debut authors and creators established on the KidLit scene, with your school communities. You can find blurbs for each book below and further explore Read to Them’s catalog by visiting our featured book lists

Crenshaw

by Katherine Applegate

“If you ever have to live in your car, you are going to have some problems with feet.” 

In the past, Jackson and his family lived in the family van before moving into an apartment. Now they are facing homelessness again. And though both his parents are loving and supportive, Jackson is worried.

Which is where Crenshaw comes in. Crenshaw is a large, imaginary, talking cat who likes purple jelly beans. Can Crenshaw magically solve all the problems in Jack’s complicated life? No. But, he can offer support, and ask sassy, challenging questions that help Jackson think differently about his childhood.

 

The 14th Goldfish

by Jennifer Holm

“A PhD lasts a lot longer than love.”

What would you do if you discovered your grandfather had turned into a 13-year-old wise-cracking kid?

Grandpa Melvin is a scientist and he’s discovered a cure for aging. (It involves jellyfish.) He appears on his daughter’s doorstep looking for help breaking into his lab to recover his research. He ends up enrolled in middle school with his 11-year-old granddaughter, Ellie!

 

Because of the Rabbit

by Cynthia Lord

“It happened once…”

That’s how Emma’s grandfather – Pépère – always began his enchanting, lesson-filled stories about the trickster rabbit, Monsieur Lapin. Emma also receives sensitive and winning support from her older brother, Owen.

Emma’s biggest concern is the fate of her rescued rabbit, Lapi. Not only does she have to care for Lapi, but she must also determine if Lapi has a former owner. This turns out to be a dicey ethical question as Emma wants to find a way to keep him.

 

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

by Janae Marks

“To my Little Tomato…”

Marcus writes to his daughter, Zoe, from prison. But if Zoe’s mother has anything to say about, Zoe won’t receive these letters, and she certainly won’t be allowed to respond. Zoe’s desire to build a relationship with her father lies at the heart of this novel, but there is so much more.

Zoe’s relationship with Marcus grows through letters, recipes, and playlists. The novel takes a sharp turn when Zoe decides to take on the mission of proving his innocence. With the help of her good friend Trevor, she sets off to find an alibi witness and engage the Innocence Project. The story deals with serious themes of friendship, family, and justice, along with cupcakes, basketball, and Stevie Wonder. 

 

Malamander

by Thomas Taylor

“But in a place like Eerie-on-Sea, legends can sometimes have a little more… bite.” 

This is a lesson that Herbert “Herbie” Lemon, Lost-and-Founder of the Grand Nautilus Hotel, quickly discovers when he learns about the fearsome Malamander, a half-fish, half-man, that’s kept the town of Eerie-on-Sea wary of misty evenings for generations. 

Get ready to embark on a larger-than-life adventure, especially if you are one who enjoys an appreciation for things that are just a little bit strange. 

 

Ways to Make Sunshine

by Renée Watson

“Be who we named you to be.”

Ryan Hart is full of spit and fire, and a drive to do right by everyone. Yet somehow in moving to a new neighborhood, and worrying about her father’s new job, and fretting about the fourth-grade talent show, well, little things can go awry.

We invite you to share Ryan Hart with your school and families. Every child should experience authentic characters like Ryan, and all the things that make them so relatable – their attitude, warmth and generosity, mistakes, ups and downs, lessons, and their resolutions.

 

Harbor Me

by Jacqueline Woodson

“Always remember, when you are with your people, you are home.”

Welcome to the ARRT Room – A Room To Talk. Here, six Brooklyn middle school students are afforded one hour each Friday to talk amongst themselves – no adults present.

It’s a racially and economically diverse group of students, dealing with their own challenges. They use the time and freedom to get to know each other – to find out where each of them is coming from and what each of them is dealing with.


Celebrate Chloe Grant & Oliver Perry!

In 2020, Read to Them adapted to needs of the moment by creating innovative new programming featuring up-to-date digital resources.  We are proud of our ability to refine and improve our programs – and we couldn’t do it without vital, creative personnel like Chloe Grant and Oliver Perry.  Most recently, Chloe spearheaded the creation of our Digital Resource Hub and Oliver was instrumental in supplying fresh, vibrant content across the range of Read to Them programming.  Both are now set to pursue Masters in Teaching degrees and while Read to Them is sad to lose them, we also want to thank and appreciate them for their dynamic contributions.  We have no doubt that, once Chloe and Oliver are in their respective classrooms, the world will be better for their creativity, their light, and their drive to nurture the up-and-coming generation of young scholars.

 

Chloe Grant 

Upon reflection, Chloe Grant found that her role at Read to Them changed completely in the last year.

“When I first started, I was a Program Assistant for One Richmond, One Book,” Grant says. She took the helm in creating a number of materials to support the Richmond-based program, including bulletin boards, assemblies, and implementing classroom read alouds and activities in participating schools. When COVID sent students into a virtual learning environment, Grant explains, “As our organization tried to figure out how to best support kiddos and families at home, I helped develop our digital program, #OneBookConnects. Through that process I began creating digital components to bolster our programs.”

Grant directed a skit at G.H. Reid Elementary – with a bunch of young talent, too!

As Program Developer, she has had the opportunity to create and manage the development of the Digital Resource Hub, a set of supplemental resources that includes daily reading quizzes, access to Flipgrid communities dedicated to your read, and blog posts. Grant has also supported numerous state reading programs and interviewed #OneBookConnects authors. This role, Grant says, “changes all the time” and allows the freedom for growth and the ability to support her team in new ways.

Grant’s live interview with author, Lesa Cline-Ransome

“In my original role the highlight was every single smile, laugh, and hug I got to experience working in the schools,” Grant reflects. “Right before COVID, I got to write and direct a skit with some students at a local elementary school. Watching them take on their roles and be so invested in filming this scene was the best thing on this planet.” Grant, in conducting author interviews, adds, “I was star-struck on Instagram live-chatting with Lesa Cline-Ransome. I cried after that interview because I was so honored! I am grateful for the moments like that I experienced in this position.”

In fall of 2021, Grant will be heading back to the classroom as she begins her full-year residency teaching 9th and 11th grade English alongside a coach. During this time, Grant will be finishing her Masters in Teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is on track to graduate in spring of 2022.

“I have learned so much during my time at Read to Them,Grant says. “I have been mentored by wonderful individuals who have invested their time in me. I hope to share that investment with my future students, and bring some of the joy I’ve felt while working at Read to Them into their lives.”

Read to Them, Grant claims, “will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will hold onto the lessons I’ve learned here for the remainder of my career.” As she steps into this new phase of her professional life, Grant says, “I hope that I have left even a fraction of the impact that Read to Them has left on me.”

 

Oliver Perry

When he first started at Read to Them, Oliver Perry was one of the on-site Program Assistants for the One Richmond, One Book program. Through reading books aloud to participating students and leading activities in a variety of classrooms, Perry claims, “I kind of fell in love with the idea of teaching.” Like Grant, Perry will be starting his residency at Armstrong High School as an 11th and 12th grade English co-teacher as he completes his Masters in Teaching at VCU.

Perry was drawn to Read to Them due to a love for the organization’s mission.

“I believe very strongly that creating a culture of literacy in our homes and in our schools plays a huge role in the future success and happiness of us and our kids,” Perry says.

In his two years at Read to Them, he has bolstered Read to Them’s mission by lending his talent to Read to Them’s resource-laden book packets. Perry has crafted discussion questions, activities, and assemblies as well as contributed greatly to launching the Digital Resource Hub earlier in the year.

Perry frequently read chapters live for #OneBookConnects

As Perry looks ahead, he’s eager to enter his own classroom with tools he’s accumulated while at Read to Them. His confidence has grown and Perry feels that he has improved his so-called “stage presence” through leading activities and assemblies in schools. 

“I’ve also become a self-proclaimed master at pulling the ‘good bits’ out of a story,” he says. “Whether it’s [in the form of] discussion questions or activities, I can only see that serving me well as an English teacher.”

When asked to consider the highlight of his time at Read to Them, Perry says the answer is easy: “It’s got to be the amazing people I’ve met and [getting to see] the awesome work they do. Namely, my wonderful Programs team comrades, Kayla and Chloe.” Perry adds that he has learned a great deal from his team. “I wouldn’t trade these people and experiences for the world.”


Look Inside Read to Them’s Digital Resource Hub!

Read to Them is always on the lookout for resources to add to our creative program materialsall the stuff that will make your reading event interactive and fun. Over the past few months, Read to Them staff has worked to curate a plethora of supplemental digital resources to further enhance your reading experience— and you can find them all on the Digital Resource Hub.

The Digital Resource Hub, conceived and designed by Program Developer, Chloe Grant, houses materials for over forty Read to Them titles with additional titles loaded to the site monthly. Every book listed on the Digital Resource Hub is bolstered by several components: 

Chloe Grant and Oliver Perry provide a warm welcome to your Flipgrid community

Each book on the Digital Resource Hub has a Flipgrid community for students to engage with others who are currently reading along with them. Each week of the reading event includes discussion questions and a bonus activity that students can respond to via video or text. It’s a space for kids to guide the conversations surrounding their reading experience, all while granting students a creative outlet and delving deeper into the text. Don’t worry: when you arrive on the Flipgrid, there’s a welcome video filmed by Read to Them staff if you’re looking for the right place to start.

There are daily Kahoot! quizzes that correspond to the reading schedule. Each Kahoot! features 6 to 8 questions, allowing for a quick, entertaining trivia match in the classroom or at-home. We even put one together so you can have a little Kahoot! fun for yourself. Just click the link from your computer and join the game by typing the Game PIN in your phone – enjoy!  

The Digital Resource Hub also includes access to the #OneBookConnects blog. Here you will find posts for all past and future #OneBookConnects titles, including Character Spotlights that give you a glimpse into main and secondary characters for each #OneBookConnects selection, as well as exclusive author interviews and essays on major themes. Each week we close with a Friday Reconnect with bonus activities, discussion questions, and writing prompts. 

All you have to do is visit the Digital Resource Hub site and find the book your school is reading. While each book is password protected, the information you need to access these materials is available in the Activities file and in the Family Fun Pack that is shared prior to your reading event. 

Don’t see the book selected by your school on the Digital Resource Hub? Contact us at programs@readtothem.org so we can add the title to our line-up of working titles and create a full suite of Digital Resources for you! 


Getting (Almost) Super with Marion Jensen

Few books in Read to Them’s library are able to balance wit, respect, forgiveness, and the power of familial bonds with the ease of Marion Jensen’s Almost Super.  Jensen presents these themes in an action-packed world brimming with superheroes – some who possess incredible powers and some with gifts that are absolutely ridiculous. We recently had the opportunity to correspond with Jensen about his novel, his writing, and what it takes to be a hero. 

If you’re reading Almost Super, be sure not to miss the opportunity to contact Marion Jensen for a personalized welcome message for your school! 

What was your relationship with reading like growing up?

My parents had a library of old books down in our basement. I used to pick through the books, looking at the covers, and imagining the stories inside them. When I was old enough to read, I found that books were like a time machine. I could lose myself in the story while I rode on the bus or went on a long trip. I couldn’t believe that I could carry an exciting adventure around in my backpack.

What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?

I LOVE going to schools and talking to the readers, especially after they’ve read the book. There is nothing better than hearing a reader talk about the characters and ask about the writing process.

What was the inspiration for your novel, Almost Super?

At the time, I was telling my children stories each night to help them get to sleep. Their favorite stories were the ones where they were the characters, and they had superpowers. They asked me over and over again to tell them most adventures where they could do amazing things.

Simply having super powers doesn’t make you a superhero – so in what ways do you try to be a superhero in your everyday life?

That’s one of the main themes of Almost Super! When life doesn’t just give you what you want, then you must work for it. I’ve found the best way to do amazing things in your life is a little each day. Day after day, week after week, year after year. Doing a little at a time, over a long period of time, can make a huge difference.

Resilience is quite prevalent in Almost Super. In the past year, how have you managed to remain positive and look on the brighter side of things?

You can only do so much by yourself. When things get hard, there are always people in your life who are ready to help you. Whether it’s friends, family, a teacher, or somebody else, you can get through the hard times better when you go with a friend.

If kids could learn one lesson from the characters in Almost Super, what do you hope it would be?

Jensen promoted Almost Super at Salt Lake Comic Con

The characters in Almost Super wanted to be superheroes. When things didn’t go exactly how they thought, they didn’t give up. They thought, planned, worked, and kept an open mind. Then, when they needed to be brave, they were. I hope readers can realize that if they work as hard as the characters in the story, they will do amazing things.

If you could have any super power, what would it be? Would you use this power for good or for evil? A little of both?

I love this question! I think if I had an amazing superpower, then people would look at what I accomplished, and say, “He can do amazing things because he has a superpower, so I can’t do those amazing things.” So, the power I would want is something worthless, so people would realize they can do amazing things too. My power would be the ability to grow a mustache, on-demand.

What is something you hope families get out of reading Almost Super with Read to Them?

There are some important themes in the book. Without giving too much away, I hope that readers and families will be reminded of how similar we all are, and how much more we can do when we work together.

Do you have any advice or tips for young writers?

Yes! Three pieces of advice. Read a lot. Write a lot. And the first draft is never perfect. Edit, edit, edit, and make it better every time.

Before we go, is there anything else you’d like families and educators to know? 

If your school has chosen Almost Super for your One School, One Book program, I’d love to hear from you! Please reach out to me at marionjensen@gmail.com and I will be happy to record a personalized message for your students and teachers.

To keep up with the latest from Marion Jensen, you can find him on Twitter or visit his website. If you enjoyed Almost Super, be sure to pick up the sequel, Searching for Super, at a bookstore near you!