Earlier this year, the students at Newton Elementary School in Newton, Mississippi joined in on the Mississippi Reads One Book (MSROB) fun by reading J.D. and the Great Barber Battle by J. Dillard. Given this was Newton Elementary’s first time participating in a States Read One Book program, they endeavored to make an impact, starting with two vital elements: generating excitement and getting students and their families reading.
Reaching families, however, can prove to be a challenge – one that Tiwari McLain, Communications and Information Director at Newton Municipal School District, was ready and willing to take on.
“We made [a] video that walked parents and the community through the expectations and resources,” McLain shares.
In the video, which you can view below, a clear, concise roadmap is laid out for families to follow: a summary of J.D. and the Great Barber Battle, Read to Them’s provided reading schedule, as well as the Family Fun Pack that includes at-home activities and post-event materials to ensure students keep nourishing their positive relationship with reading.
** Video leads off-site.
Building excitement for the program in the classroom proved to be much easier, though no less rewarding.
“Each morning, trivia questions about the book were read over the PA system,” McLain says, adding that students who provided the right answers received recognition and prizes. “Because we knew some students might not have anyone to read with them at home, most teachers made sure to read from the book daily. We also held discussions about the book when students visited the library. This gave all students a chance to answer questions and be a part of the experience.”
McLain shares that staff were just as excited to receive their copies of J.D. and the Great Barber Battle as the students were. One memory, however, stands out from the rest:
“I walked into the cafeteria one day,” McLain recalls. “And a grandmother to one of our students – who is also one of the cafeteria workers – excitedly told me all about what was happening in the book up until that point. She said they were reading it every night, and asked what we were reading next. She was truly all in, and it made everything worth it.”
When preparing for the program, McLain recommends that first time participants know the importance of both getting a committee together and planning prior to the start of your read.
“The program provides a plethora of resources,” McLain says. “It’s just up to the planning committee to put everything in place. Be sure to order books in a timely manner. Decide on locations and make sure everyone knows where to go when it’s time for the planned events. Get someone else to take pictures, because if you’re in charge, you’re sure to forget!”
McLain amends that while planning is vital to a successful program, there should be room for flexibility. After all, at the end of the day, “The idea is to have fun, and help students learn to love reading.”
Now, more than ever, McLain believes that reading and reading aloud serve as fundamental pillars in learning and in building a sense of community.
“During slavery, it was illegal and deadly for slaves to learn to read,” McLain says. “This was not because reading was a bad thing. It was because reading was a way to a better life and greater opportunities. Even though times have changed and we are in a different place, reading is still vital to the success of communities. Sharing books is an excellent way for us to surround our students with love, positive experiences with books, and to help them become lifelong learners.”
(We at Read to Them could not agree more!)
As they look ahead, McLain is proud to share that MSROB got students and parents reading and spending more time with each other. In addition to doing a 2024 MSROB program, their school also plans to read an additional book with their community in the upcoming school year.
“Our students really enjoyed it,” McLain says. “We can’t wait to do it again!”