2018 Model District: Little Rock, Arkansas

Congratulations to Little Rock School District in Arkansas, Read to Them’s 2018 Model District of the Year. Under the guidance of superintendent Mike Poore, a long-time One District, One Book proponent, Little Rock’s experience demonstrates the power of the ODOB program to bring positive results in an urban district that faces typical urban challenges, such as high levels of poverty, low levels of educational achievement, and limited educational resources.

Poore championed the ODOB program while serving as superintendent of Bentonville Public Schools. When he moved to Little Rock in 2016, he brought the program with him as a critical component of his efforts to increase family engagement and improve student reading. These efforts have paid off, as evidenced by the following data:

  • LRSD was one of 12 public school districts that improved in every tested area in 2017. (data provided by Arkansas Learns)
  • LRSD was one of the three school districts throughout Arkansas that met or exceeded its expected growth based on assessment results in 2017, given the District’s free and reduced lunch population. (data provided by the Office of Education Policy (OEP) at the University of Arkansas)
  • LRSD’s 2017 senior class improved its ACT college entrance assessment by .4 while the rest of the state dropped by .8. (data provided by ADE)
  • A survey of parents in Little Rock found a 75% increase in families reading together and a 78% increase in students reading away from school.

Poore has also worked with Economics Arkansas and business leaders to run a special One Book program in Little Rock and several other districts across the state that revolves around financial literacy. In 2017 students read The Lemonade War, and an accompanying set of materials engaged families in discussing and learning more about financial matters.

“Businesses are very supportive of the idea and have helped purchase all the books for Little Rock,” Poore says. “Staff loves the effort because this activity promotes family interaction, combining reading and financial literacy.” Little Rock’s model involves reading one economics-related title and one general interest book each year.

This spring, LRSD read Cleo Edison Oliver, Playground Millionaire by Sundee Frazier, another great book for families to read and at the same time learn about financial literacy concepts. “This year LRSD incorporated “Shark Tank” Activities for all of our Grade 3-5 students with business leaders from throughout Little Rock acting as the Sharks,” Poore says. “Our K-2 Students worked to invent their own toys to tie into the innovation and business concepts that align with the Cleo book.”

Poore and LRSD are willing to share materials and approaches to bringing family engagement in literacy while also engaging students and parents in financial literacy.

To honor Little Rock’s achievements, Bruce Coffey, Read to Them’s Director of Programs, presented a plaque to Poore on May 19. The presentation took place as part of the culminating activities for Little Rock’s spring ODOB event.

2015 Model District: Watertown, New York

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 2500 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 it’s Year Round Reader standard-bearer and it’s 2015 One District, One Book District of the Year.

Take a bow MMZ and Watertown!



2014 Model District: Carroll ISD – Southlake, TX

Margo Rudder knows how to take a good idea – and make it better.  She first brought One School, One Book to her school – Johnson E.S., in Southlake, Texas – in 2013.  They read the perennial classic, E.B. White’sCharlotte’s Web.  Her principal, Lori Allison, thought the experience was so rewarding for Johnson families, she couldn’t wait to read a second book.

But that wasn’t enough.  If OSOB was good for Johnson families, and if two books are better than one – why not take the idea and spread it to her entire district – to expand that community of readers?  And that’s just what she did.  She pitched to her fellow librarians across the Carroll Independent School District.  She told them how easy it was to implement ODOB – and how fun – and how exciting and motivating it would be for their families.  Her fellow librarians were sold – and in turn sold their principals.  And One District, One Book came to Southlake.

Five schools – over 1500 families – read Betty G. Birney’s World According to Humphrey in the fall of 2013.  Their efforts were catalogued in the local press and they created a local TV advertisement to play in district schools promoting Humphrey and ODOB.

But that still wasn’t enough.  Southlake’s families responded so well to Humphrey – they came back for a twofer.  They chose to read a second book in the spring – Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  Across Carroll ISD families supported the initiative, acquiring their own copies of their ODOB titles.

That’s how to expand the reach of family literacy.  That’s how you create a culture of literacy in every home.  That’s how you build and grow a community of readers.

Congratulations Southlake and Carroll ISD.  Congratulations, Margo.  You’re our 2014 ODOB District of the year!


2013 Model District: Currituck County, N.C.

It takes two kinds of people to help spread OSOB from one school to an entire district – two kinds to makeODOB happen. Currituck County, North Carolina has both of them.

It started with Steve Blackstock – the Matador. Steve is the principal at Jarvisburg E.S. He brought One School, One Book to Jarvisburg. They read Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle. His families loved the experience and Steve realized he had something special – something that couldn’t just stay at his school. He took the next step – he made the special effort – the crucial link enabling OSOB to become One District, One Book in Currituck.

He went beyond. He took OSOB to his sister schools in Currituck County. He took it to the School Board. He took it to his Superintendent. And they said Yes – the second crucial step in the establishment of ODOB – the district-wide book club. [“When a whole district reads a book, there’s a whole lot to talk about.”]

Everyone said Yes – and Currituck was on its way. They too read Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle and shared an amazing experience – one that is still providing rewards for Currituck’s families – and details for Read to Them.

Currituck created their community of readers by including the entire community – including the now proverbial custodians and cafeteria staff and bus drivers. (One bus driver so enjoyed the experience, that when he missed a day he made sure his substitute was up to speed on Mr. Popper’s Penguins so he could trade trivia w/ the kids those days.) Currituck expanded its notion of a community read – including even one family so dedicated – or who valued the family time so much – they did there reading together during visiting hours in prison! (That ought to make each of us appreciate our humdrum opportunities to read together as a family.)

Currituck’s effort was so successful that their School Board devoted an entire meeting to celebrating their efforts and learning more about what they did and how they accomplished it. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members all spoke at the meeting. (Sandy Kinzel, the Title I co-ordinator, saidOne District, One Book is the most effective program she has come across – in 20 years – at promoting parental involvement.)


School Board Video

Listen in as the Currituck County School Board discusses their district’s experience reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Click here for the full video!


2012 Model District: Sauk Rapids-Rice

In 2009-2010 Read to Them expanded it’s One School, One Book program to encompass school districts – families from an entire district of schools all reading the same book at the same time – at home. One District, One Book began that year in Hampton, Virginia and Bentonville, Arkansas and has built up steam slowly.

In 2011-2012 twelve new districts – encompassing 48 school – joined the program – spreading a culture of literacy and creating a community of readers in families and communities from Maryland and Massachusetts and New Jersey all the way to Idaho.

One District, One Book has now reached the critical mass that allows Read to Them to now name the first everOne District, One Book Model District of the Year (for 2012). That district is Sauk Rapids-Rice, Minnesota – a district of four schools that this year read George Selden’s A Cricket in Times Square.

Sauk Rapids-Rice’s efforts was spearheaded Lori Posch, the Integration Liaison for SRR’s elementary and middle schools. Lori and her committee documented their efforts spectacularly. Among the photos shared from Sauk Rapids-Rice are images of the SRR school board all investigating and reading A Cricket in Times Square(to learn about and greenlight the program) – and photos too of the SRR Rotary Club – also reading the book – to better understand why they were asked to help fund the program for Sauk Rapids-Rice.

Sauk Rapids-Rice followed the example of previous pioneers – setting up a faux Grand Central subway station newsstand in their library; creating a web-page of links and relevant images and videos (including personal post-cards); creating a rich trove of photographs and sharing and posting them in an impressive and robust series of slideshows; creating, sharing, and posting individual mp3 files of each chapter read by district teachers and administrators.

They also held one of the most impressive Family Reading Nights we have witnessed this decade. Hosting a reading night for an entire district is an awesome affair – and the pictures show it. Sauk Rapids-Rice created numerous engage-the-book activities that helped bring younger readers into the world of Chester Cricket. They even enlisted support from varsity football player – showing us all how inclusive and expansive the Community of Readers can be.

For showing all how fun and rewarding reading one book as an entire district can be; for daring to do so across an entire district; for documenting and sharing their efforts so well and so usefully; and for innovating and executing with such passion and panache – Sauk Rapids-Rice is Read to Them’s ODOB 2012 District of the Year. Congratulations to all in their community – from school board and Rotary Club members, to parents and teachers, to Lori Posch and those varsity football players. Read to Them looks forward to what Sauk Rapids-Rice might achieve in 2013 – and invites districts across the country to create a Community of Readers in your district, too.