Celebrate Banned Book Week 2021

Each year, the American Library Association hosts Banned Books Week as a way to celebrate the freedom to read. This event spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The event runs from September 26 – October 2, 2021 with the theme of Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” According to the ALA, sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. In support of the event, a few Read to Them staff members have highlighted their favorite titles that have been challenged or banned.


Sara Hudson, Programs Manager

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I read this book as an adult when my daughter was reading it. I knew it had been challenged in the past, so I wanted to know what the issue was. I was reading along, wondering what the problem could possibly be, when I got to that scene when it became clear why some people would feel threatened by the book.

In a less gifted writer’s hands, this story of a community avoiding all painful memories would come off as too far-fetched, the arc too contrived. But, in Lois Lowry’s hands, the story leads you along, giving you so much to ponder about the role of sadness in our lives. Several years after reading the book, I attended a talk by Lois Lowry. She was there to discuss Number the Stars, but she entertained my question about the genesis of The Giver. She shared that the book came from a visit with her elderly father who had sunk deep into dementia. As she rode the train home, she wondered about the importance of memories – all memories. Not just the happy ones, but the more challenging ones also. I come back to that thought often – that no matter how convenient it might be to shield ourselves from pain and sorrow, carrying the full range of experiences is what makes us human. 

Bruce Coffey, Director of Programs

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

One of the great subtle, anti-racist books in American history and literature.  I used to read the classic chapter “You Can’t Pray a Lie” to my U.S. History students to help them grapple with understanding how you can write a book commenting on American racial history and tension and inconsistency without being didactic – and instead use sly, sarcastic, parodic humor to expose the juvenile underpinnings of racist habits.

 

Mary Jo Warwick, Midwest Regional Representative

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki; Illustrated by Dom Lee

When I first picked up Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, it was both Dom Lee’s illustrations and the curious title that drew me in.  The precious faces of the young players backed by the parched beige of the desert was intriguing, but being a baseball fan, I had to find out how the game could save “us” — whoever “us” was.

I read the story of Shorty, a Japanese-American boy whose family was relegated to an internment camp by the U.S. government after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the government’s ensuing suspicions of the loyalty of all Japanese-Americans.  When camp life becomes unbearable, the boy’s father decides to fight the monotony by constructing a make-shift baseball diamond.  As the camp guard watches their every move, the teams play a game that provides not only physical and mental stimulation, but builds the confidence of Shorty.  

I remember shaking my head as I read the story. The blatant racist policy and practice of the government of a country that prides itself on the American Dream.  How ironic that America’s National Pastime – baseball – can shine a spotlight on such Un-American activity:  limiting access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Sometimes our past behaviors are not something to be proud of, but by acknowledging and owning them, we set ourselves up for a brighter future.  Baseball Saved Us can help do just that. Read it!  Teach it!

 

Kayla Aldrich, Programs Specialist

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five was the sort of book that found me when I needed it most. Vonnegut is a master of short, snappy quotes that stick with you long after you’ve stepped outside the pages of his novels, and the one that has been with me for upward of a decade, now, is “so it goes.” It became a line I frequently scrawled in notebooks, that I doodled on the back of my hand. It became a reminder that, no matter how hard the present may be, there is a version of me in a thousand different moments who is light and joyous. Sometimes the simple reminder that brighter times are ahead is the only saving grace one may be afforded, and it’s a beacon that should be readily available for anyone to stumble upon as I did. 

For more information on Banned Book Week, visit the American Library Association’s website and follow the ALA on Twitter and Facebook.


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.”


Edward C. Killin and One School, One Book: Nine Years Strong

In a year of uncertainty, Edward C. Killin Elementary teachers knew one thing for sure — they would make sure students and staff would be able to participate in a One School, One Book event. Since the fall of 2012, OSOB has been a staple to the school’s curriculum. Thanks to a bit of pandemic-era ingenuity, E. C. Killin was able to launch their ninth event this past October.

A 2012 article shows E. C. Killin’s long-term dedication to encourage literacy

C. Killin is located on the Foster Marine Base in Okinawa, Japan. With an ever-shifting population, the school boasts between 400 and 600 students at a time.

“Every year we have some new families to our school that send the principal letters about how much they enjoy this program,” says Marti Fisk, the literary support specialist at E. C. Killin. “Families that have been at our school for awhile always ask when we’ll be doing the next OSOB and they look forward to what our next book will be.  Our Parent Teacher Organization purchases books for the school and puts this program as a top priority in their budget.  The parents that are on the board for the PTO always compliment the program and look forward to continuing to support it.” 

Given E. C. Killin’s location in Japan, students attend a Japanese Language course once a week. To further enhance this piece of student’s schedules, Fisk says that: 

In 2012-13, students at E.C. Killin read Frindle in Japanese

“One year we purchased copies of our OSOB title in Japanese so that our Japanese teacher could read parts aloud to the students in her class. We thought that was a really special experience.”

For their ninth OSOB event, students spent time with the cast of E.B. Whites’ The Trumpet of the Swan. A Marine from the base visited the school to play taps and reveille among other songs on a trumpet just like Louis the swan when he worked as a summer camp bugler. 

“We created an internet link to our program that allows parents to access the calendar, questions, more about the author, tips for reading aloud, and information on why reading aloud is important,” Fisk says of their most recent event. To get students involved, “we had our student ambassadors take turns reading the announcements for the month. They read the question, the answer and the chapters that are assigned for that night.  They also deliver prizes to the winners” who answer the questions correctly. 

A sampling of E.C. Killin’s the most recent OSOB titles

In the time of Covid, though, the thing that Fisk loves the most is how the OSOB titles they’ve selected serve as “great books to use when you’re making connections. It helps us to have at least one piece of the same schema.” 

One thing that Fisk has done to ensure excitement for OSOB continues throughout the year is keep a bulletin board with posters of the nine previous books E. C. Killin has been read. 

“Just this year I heard a student ask his friend if he remembers the book from last year when he saw the board. He was talking about how much he loved that book.” Fisk adds that students frequently talk about how much they loved participating in OSOB, because they had the opportunity to “really dig deep into the book by having done it at home and at school and talking about it throughout the month.”

For Fisk, the most crucial benefit OSOB provides is actually quite simple. The program enables and encourages families to create valuable family time through the act of reading aloud together. To E. C. Killin, reading at home is considered important and expected, and after having participated in OSOB, families have shared that they continue to read aloud at home throughout the school year. 

“The time invested into this program is so worth it,” Fisk says. “Especially since it reaches the whole school, not just a couple students or a couple of families.”


Celebrating our Supporters of One Richmond, One Book

The second installment of our One Richmond, One Book program has come to a close. One Richmond, One Book will be occurring each fall and spring for ten years. This spring, students, families, teachers, and staff read Cleo Edison Oliver, Playground Millionaire by Sundee T. Frazier.

Over the summer, each student will receive one more book as part of our Superstar Summer Readers program. Our generous sponsor, Capital One, and their employees have been helping us prepare materials for the for the Superstar Summer Readers book give-away…

Capital One employees enthusiastically helped us pack over 13,000 books across multiple days. Students will receive a book, pencil, fruit snack, and some tips for families about reading aloud.

We couldn’t have made this program a reality without the help of Capital One and their generous employees! Their help with this program supports literacy across our city.

It is an honor to bring One Richmond, One Book and Superstar Summer Readers to Richmond and we are grateful for the dedicated volunteers, community members, and sponsors who helped make it happen!

Find more great pictures about our other programs on our Facebook page, Twitter, or Instagram account.


A District-Wide Read Like No Other

A dream 12 years in the making has finally come to Lethbridge School District in Alberta, Canada. A One District, One Book program unlike any other, Lethbridge has done something totally unique.

Learning Support Teacher, Michelle Dimnik, has brought One School One Book to her school, Dr. Gerald B. Probe School, for 11 years. During that time, she dreamed of bringing this reading program to the entire district of 24 schools.

Through much dedication and hard work, and help from resource teams across the city, Dimnik has finally brought One District, One Book to all of Lethbridge this spring. They chose to read Wishtree by Newbery award-winning author, Katherine Applegate. It’s a transformative story that is inspiring readers and schools across North America.

Most incredible?  Dimnik actually recruited the involvement of every student in Lethbridge. From kindergarten to 12th grade, all students received their own copy of Wishtree to read together. Reading K-12 is unprecedented at the district level.

Even more exciting?  The district got a visit from Katherine Applegate!

Lethbridge truly got the community involved with the book. The shared reading experience was featured on local news numerous times including an article written by the Chief of Police. A One District One Book Lethbridge Twitter page was created to share pictures and celebrate successes.

Here’s to Lethbridge’s first district-wide read! We can’t wait for next year.

 

Interested in something like this in your district?

Get in touch with our office or find more information here.


Our Winter 2019 Newsletter Has Arrived!

It’s that time of year again, our winter newsletter is here! Check out some of the highlights below.

Read to Them‘s hometown participated in its first city-wide read this fall. The One Richmond, One Book program will continue in fall, spring, and summer for the next ten years!

“Seeing students and families reading across the city this fall demonstrated this is a program that can truly energize and unite our city,” said Richmond Mayor, Levar Stoney.

Each of the 13,000 students participating received their own copy of Friendship According to Humphrey. Read to Them will support three reading events a year for Richmond students.

In other news of important firsts, R. P. Connor Elementary School in New York participated in One School, One Book for the first time.

R. P. Connor was especially ambitious and put on two reading events; one in the fall (The Lemonade War) and one in spring (The World According to Humphrey). The entire community got involved, local businesses even posted signs in their windows supporting the read.

Read to Them‘s website homepage has recently been revamped. Check it out! We’ve added new video series too! Our staff members discuss their favorite titles in our  Why We Love Books video series.

Don’t miss our author spotlight with Monica Brown. She is the author of the Lola Levine series and over 20 award-winning picture books.

“I wanted to create a loving, multicultural family not unlike our own, where mixed-race children were not described in fractions, but rather as containing multitudes and whole just as they are!” explains Brown.

Poplar Grove Elementary School in Illinois kicked off their seventh year of One School, One Book this winter.

The school read one of our newest titles, Dragons and Marshmallows, from the Zoey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro. The title is full of science experiments, discovery, and friendship.

And don’t miss our tips from the field!

Advice on how to generate excitement from students and when to plan your reading event. 

Find all this and more in our full newsletter. Click here to download!

 


Bryan Elementary School Goes Above and Beyond!

Bryan Elementary School in Bryan, Ohio kicked off their One School, One Book event last month. They also hosted their first ever literacy night. We loved these pictures and had to share!

During their kickoff assembly, staff members competed in a “motorcycle” race! Maybe you guessed it…Bryan ES read The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. They also brought in an actual motorcycle and a Ralph stand-in.

Most impressive though, is this music video that involved just about everyone.

They made a parody of Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. Don’t miss it!

Bryan ES spread the word on social media.

The school got families involved on social media and spread the word about their literacy night on Facebook. Social media is a great way to remind parents of the reading schedule and special events.

Thank you for sharing these excellent pictures, Bryan Elementary School! Interested in bringing One School, One Book to your school? Click here.

 

 


Kate DiCamillo on the Unmatched Magic of Reading Aloud

What is it that makes reading aloud so special? And why was Read to Them founded on this very idea?

Author Kate DiCamillo recently shared an intriguing story from her childhood that offers a fantastic explanation. She was featured on a short PBS segment. (3 minutes!)

You can find the entire video here.

 

“Reading aloud ushers us into a third place, a safe room, it’s a room where everyone involved, reader and the listener, can put down their defenses and lower their guard”, says DiCamillo.

DiCamillo reminds us all of our memories being read to or reading to someone else. “We humans long not just for story, not just for the flow of language, but for the connection that comes when words are read aloud. That connection provides illumination, it lets us see each other.” These moments are so precious, despite their simplicity, and remembered for lifetimes.

Kate DiCamillo is the beloved author of four books on our list. From the classic novel  Because of Winn-Dixie to the thought provoking and heart-wrenching story that is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Not to mention two incredible Newbery Winners; The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & UlyssesThe Tale of Despereaux will delight and most likely make you crave a bowl of hot, delicious soup. Flora & Ulysses delivers with wonderous illustrations, a squirrel sidekick, and an increasingly intricate adventure.

There is plenty to discover in each of these books. Whatever you choose to read, share it! As DiCamillo explains, “when people talk about the importance of reading aloud they almost always mean an adult reading to a child. We forget about the surly adolescent, and the confused young adult, and the weary middle aged, and the lonely old. We need it too.”

“We all need it.”

Find the entire video and listen to DiCamillo’s excellent story here.


Our Fall 2018 Newsletter Is Here!

Our newest newsletter is officially here! Click here to download it. Check out some of the highlights below.

Students, families, and staff at Janet Kahn School of Integrated Arts (JKSIA) have read 12 books together over seven years of One School, One Book. Quite an accomplishment!

JKSIA staff Lisa Miller, Sierra Ryan, and Michelle Desiree Lobato

Clues, hints, and posters appear around the school leading up to OSOB. The school has announced the title in a variety of ways, including through school assemblies, guest performances, and even movie trailers.

Clues, a Kenny and the Dragon trivia box, and JKSIA staff: Terri Gaussoin and Christy Sigmon

“Our youngest kindergarteners who once had the story read to them are now the proud big brother or sister who is reading aloud to their younger siblings”, explains Terri Gaussoin, teacher librarian. Read more about the school’s creative approaches and student feedback in the newsletter!

Artist Zach Davis with his mural

A former student at Berlin Intermediate School in Maryland painted a beautiful mural based off two One School, One Book titles. Students at Berlin Intermediate read Wonder last year and Fish in a Tree this fall.

The beautiful mural even got author Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s attention. She tweeted praise for students who read her book, Fish in a Tree, in both English and Spanish.

Author Asia Citro and her book Zoey and Sassafras

Have you heard of our new title Zoey and Sassafras, Dragons and Marshmallows? Read our interview with the author, Asia Citro. Zoey and Sassafras weaves together science and imagination in a creative story.

Student actors kick of The Lemonade War

Beaverdam Elementary School involved student actors in their kickoff assembly. The actors swore not to reveal the chosen book title to their classmates until the assembly. Beaverdam kicked off The Lemonade War by expanding on Read to Them‘s assembly ideas. 

Check out our full newsletter here for more about these stories, tips from the field, and the full Asia Citro interview.


Kathryn Starke’s Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers

“You cannot do anything without reading”, says Kathryn Starke, one of our fabulous literacy partners. We couldn’t agree more.

Kathryn Starke is a literacy advocate, author of the book Tackle Reading, and founder of Creative Minds Publications. She works tirelessly to advocate for reading, “we want all children to be able to feel successful as early as kindergarten and not already feel behind”.

She was recently interviewed on Laura Steward’s podcast It’s All About the Questions. Listen to the full segment here.

Kathryn educates adults on how to introduce reading to children. She and Laura discuss the best ways to engage children, “the more you talk with a child…you are increasing vocabulary, you are increasing language awareness, and all of these components are necessary for our little ones to become successful readers once they come to school”.

Any and all reading is great. Kathryn discusses the myth that students always need to be reading new and challenging books. She explains that reading anything, even billboards, is valuable practice. Reading is all around us!


Kathryn also introduces One School, One Book to Laura and talks about our growing statewide reading programs. She explains, “the whole goal is to create these communities that are reading together”. By reading together as a community we can create a culture of literacy. 

Find out how to “Tackle Reading” on Kathryn’s blog or follow her on Twitter.

Kathryn finishes the segment with this sentiment, “we have to be a lifelong reader and learner”. Great advice for all of us! Listen to the full clip here.