2019 OSOB School of the Year: Matthew Turner Elementary School

Congratulations to Matthew Turner Elementary School in Benicia, California, our 2019 One School One Book School of the Year!

Even family pets got in on the story

When Matthew Turner E.S. read Victoria J. Coe’s Fenway and Hattie, a story of a girl and her Jack Russell Terrier, as part of One School, One Book this spring, students and teachers explored entertaining and educational ways to understand a dog’s-eye view of the world. They designed dog houses, built a dog park with Legos, created and explored an obstacle course for dogs using coding robots, crafted dog origami figures, and made dog blankets to donate to a local animal shelter. They even played the part of dogs themselves when students expressed emotions and thoughts as though they were Fenway. Using a green screen, thought bubbles appeared above the children’s heads with the dog’s thoughts.

“He can’t communicate in English, so how’s he going to tell people that’s he’s scared or feeling something else,” said Lisa Saari, librarian and media technician. “So they had to bark or whimper or whine to show what they were trying to communicate.”

Students pose in front of a green screen with ‘dog’ thoughts

The reading of Fenway and Hattie marked Matthew Turner’s third OSOB, and Saari said the school has grown more ambitious and adventurous with each new iteration of the program, building a comprehensive, compulsive and immersive experience that uses the breadth of the school’s resources to ensure every student joins in the excitement surrounding the act of reading a book together.

“It’s about literacy but it’s also about this big shared experience that pulls everyone together,” Saari said.

Matthew Turner first adopted OSOB after Saari learned about the positive experiences nearby Walnut Creek E.S. had enjoyed with the program. During its first two OSOB programs, Matthew Turner read Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Tony DiTerlizzi’s Kenny and the Dragon. Fenway and Hattie proved to be a perfect fit for the school’s third choice, Saari said, because it managed to engage students at every age level, allowing for a true school-wide read. She said animated discussions of the book and its characters were ubiquitous from kindergarten spaces to fifth-grade ones.

“There’s a real sense for all of the kids of wanting to be a part of the conversation,” Saari said.

Saari said it has been inspiring to see the program evolve within Matthew Turner with each reading as the school community finds more ways to make it memorable. The program’s staying power has inspired teachers to get increasingly creative with how to engage with the reading in the classroom setting, and Saari said students and their families seemed especially ready to embrace the reading and full OSOB experience from the outset this year.

“Our fourth and fifth graders have been doing it for a while now and they know to look forward to it,” Saari said. “And our teachers and families have learned more ways that they can really support it and make it be a great experience for everyone. It’s really grown.”

Designing dog houses!

Saari said Matthew Turner has been fortunate that the school’s families have recognized OSOB’s positive impact, serving as enthusiastic participants and advocates. Social media has played a major role in the way parents have engaged with the program and helped build momentum behind it. For instance, during the most recent OSOB, Saari said someone posted a photo of their child reading Fenway and Hattie to their dog and soon similar posts were popping up on social media.

Saari said it is fun to see not just kids excited about the OSOB stories and discussing them in detail but also to see the parents of those kids joining in. Saari said Matthew Turner works to create a conversation of the books online, where families can participate in the dialogue and continue it with their children, and the school puts information about in-school activities on social media so family members can see how students are interacting with the text at school.

“Our parents have just really, really bought into the value of this program,” Saari said.

Saari said she is excited to find new ways to expand OSOB at Matthew Turner, including trying to team more with local middle school and high school students on related activities and perhaps pursuing a One District, One Book collaboration.

“I’m curious to see where it goes next,” Saari said. “We want to challenge ourselves to make it even bigger.”

Congratulations to our 2019 OSOB School of the Year. Way to go, Matthew Turner Elementary School!

2018 OSOB School of the Year: Bolivar Elementary School

Congratulations to Bolivar Elementary School in Chittenango, N.Y for the great work they did  during their first One School, One Book  initiative, launched back in October 2017.

Members of the community read The Chocolate Touch at Darlene’s Diner.

Bolivar read The Chocolate Touch, by Patrick Skene Catling.

Bolivar Elementary set up a fabulous web page to accompany their OSOB initiative (click here). The website contains a blog with reading comprehension questions, read along videos with a wonderfully varied array of members of the community, including teachers, police officers, and the Mayor of Chittenango. The website also boasts a page with resources for healthy life choices, playing off of the negative health impacts the protagonist experiences in The Chocolate Touch. Also available on the site were games for the students to play, as well as a photo gallery highlighting the event at the school.  Bolivar Elementary’s website is a shining example of the school- and community-wide effects that come with Read to Them’s One School, One Book initiatives.

The Bolivar principal reads the first chapter of The Chocolate Touch aloud.

Bolivar also shared a wonderful array of photos that demonstrate how well they were able to engage their small town community in their family literacy event.  We know that when students live and see the entire community involved in reading, sharing, talking about, and experiencing a children’s novel, it really makes the salience and power of reading a book come powerfully alive.  Chittenango featured a Chocolate Touch display at a local grocery store, and many families ventured to a local restaurant, Darlene’s Kitchen, that featured a “John Midas Special” in honor of the book. You can see pics of various community members reading and delighting in their elementary school OSOB story.

Congratulations to Bolivar Elementary on their first incredibly successful One School, One Book initiative – a shining example to us all!

2016 OSOB School of the Year: North Shore Elementary School

Congratulations to North Shore Elementary School in St. Petersburg, Florida, Read to Them’s 2016 One School, One Book School of the Year. Version 2North Shore’s success are largely due to the expansive efforts of Sally Baynard, the director of North Shore’s Gifted Program.

Sally brought OSOB to North Shore in 2015 when they read Kenny & the Dragon. Her community responded so well that Sally expanded her efforts. She spread OSOB to neighboring Bear Creek E.S.  In 2016 North Shore read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while Bear Creek read The World According to Humphrey. Sally also organized an impressive ‘Knight’ of Reading Under the Stars – a family reading event with books, food, instruction, and games which culminated with a picturesque evening read – families arrayed on the school grounds, sitting on grass and towels reading together in twos and threes by flashlight and candlelight. You can check out the video here.

Version 2Sally also delivered a presentation on One School, One Book – the method, the strategy, the results, and how it was implemented at North Shore – to the Florida Association for the Gifted (FLAG) convention. Literacy leaders like Sally, who share and explain their experiences with One School, One Book and family literacy, are a principal reason OSOB continues to expand across the continent.  When successful schools share their enthusiasm with other schools, districts, and educators, family literacy grows and establish reading habits in each community.

We join and salute Sally and North Shore for helping to create a culture of literacy in every home. Congratulations North Shore Elementary School!


Honored Schools

This year it was harder than ever to select a single OSOB School of the Year. There are many schools that have achieved dramatic gains in family literacy – one way or another – in a variety of locales, employing a variety of innovative techniques to trumpet and spread a culture of literacy. Here are five honorees from 2016…

Oak Grove-Bellemeade E.S. in Richmond, VA – Under the leadership of Jessica Carpenter, Oak Grove-Bellemeade has moved, in the space of three years, from one spare title to reading three books a year – two years running.  Oak Grove-Bellemeade represents a merger of two challenged schools on Richmond’s Southside so their achievement is particularly impressive. Oak Grove-Bellemeade has now read 7 titles together in the span of 27 months – including two over the summer. Jessica and her growing team are working overtime to establish a culture of literacy in a challenging environment – and their efforts are bearing fruit: Jessica reports students regularly coming up to her and asking, “Mrs. Carpenter, What is our next book going to be?”

St. Joan of Arc School in Chagrin Falls, OH – St. Joan of Arc, in their very first year, produced a remarkable series of enthusiastic assemblies and related events as they read The Cricket in Times Square. They posted fabulous pictures of their introductory assembly (which featured colorful aspects of Manhattan and Times Square) on Facebook, sang during the 7th inning stretch at the Cleveland Indians Opening Day baseball game, entertained members of a local municipal string quartet, involved 8th grade graduates of the school, included infographics and live crickets in their school, and even invited Sensei Sam to teach the students about martial arts. The Cricket in Times Square provides manifold opportunities for enrichment and St. Joan of Arc seemingly took advantage of every one. Parent coordinator Terry Kernicki provided Read to Them with awesome documentation of the fabulous response their efforts garnered from students of all ages.

Colerain E.S. in Colerain N.C. – Colerain also read three books in one year.  They didn’t plan it that way, but this high poverty school in tidal North Carolina read Because of Winn-Dixie in the fall and had so much fun they had to keep going. So they read The One and Only Ivan in the winter. That was so good it bred a hunger in their students and families that two books could not sate, so they re-upped again and read Charlotte’s Web in the spring. They even had a full-fledged baby pig at their assembly! Reading three books in one year, especially with a challenged student population, is the best way to instill the habit of reading aloud together in every home.

Hats off to Jane Addams E.S. in Melrose Park, IL – The very first One School, One Book school in an admittedly challenged region of the country, Jane Addams was the sole school in Chicago able to pull off OSOB in 2016. They read The Lemonade War and designed and executed Lemonade War Jeopardy between students and parents and teachers. Principal Ruth Martini-Walsh and her team are to be commended for pioneering OSOB in Chicago.

Windemere Park Charter Academy in Lansing, MI – Windemere Park read The BFG – before Steven Spielberg’s movie came out this summer. And what a time they had!  Library Technology Aide Angie Moore Tweeted details of their experience voluminously.  You can see the details here on Twitter. Angie documented all of Windemere Park’s enthusiasm and also found numerous other stories and personal statements of enthusiasm for The BFG and reading aloud with children.

2015 Model School: J.C. Sawyer Elementary School

What can happen when you wear a lemon suit?

Read to Them is proud to name J.C. Sawyer Elementary School in Elizabeth City, N.C. as our 2015 One School, One Book School of the Year.

J.C. Sawyer’s principal, Chris Paullet, quickly realized that he wanted to bring family literacy to his students and families in a big way. In 2014 J.C. Sawyer’s families read The World According to Humphrey. Humphrey hit J.C. Sawyer’s sweet spot and Paullet realized that to really bring the long-term habits and benefits of family literacy to his school entire, J.C. Sawyer wanted/needed to read three books together over the course of the school year. That’s what they did in 2014-2015 – reading The Lemonade WarKenny & the Dragon, and another book in the Humphrey series, Summer According to Humphrey.

To promote The Lemonade War, Principal Paullet wore a lemonade suit as part of an elaborate skit featuring dueling lemonade stands provided by Read to Them.  Paullet’s suit was a big hit, but The Lemonade War had an even bigger impact. Paullet and his team crowed about the effect reading a succession of books together had on his families and his school. He reports that students and families have jumped over each other trying to get copies of the sequels. (Establishing the habit of reading aloud together? Check!)  He even noticed that J.C. Sawyer’s tardy rates decrease during a One School, One Book month because students want to get to school time to be able to answer daily trivia questions and win prizes. (Effect on family involvement? Check! Effect on student enthusiasm and attendance? Check!)

Naturally J.C. Sawyer is making plans to read three titles again in 2015-2016.  Paullet has already presented his experience, enthusiasm, and the effects of One School, One Book to educators in North Carolina and Read to Them is optimistic that his own experience and influence will spread to schools in Elizabeth City and beyond.

For J.C. Sawyer’s thorough embrace of One School, One Book; for its dramatic and successful impact on J.C. Sawyer’s families and reading habits; and for Paullet’s willingness to spread the whys and hows of family literacy beyond his school – J.C. Sawyer is Read to Them’s 2015 One School, One Book School of the Year.

And it’s all because of a lemon suit!


2014 Model School: Daniels Farm Elementary School

Read to Them is proud to anoint Daniels Farm Elementary School in Trumbull, Connecticut as our 2014 One School, One Book School of the Year.

Led by parent Leslie Davis, Daniels Farms is doing everything right in promoting family literacy and building community in Connecticut.

Daniels Farms first embarked on their OSOB odyssey in the fall of 2013.  They read Betty G. Birney’s The World According to Humphrey.

In 2014 they decided to do that one better – and to spread the gospel of family literacy beyond Trumbull.  Families and staff had so much fun reading Tony DiTerlizzi’s Kenny and the Dragon in the fall, they decided to read a second book in the spring – George Selden’s classic, The Cricket in Times Square – still bringing joy and charm and stimulation 50 years after its publication.

Daniels Farm had a ball with Kenny and the Dragon.  Principal, Gary Kunschaft dressed up as a knight for their thrilling kick-off assembly.  Their efforts were featured in their local newspaper, The Trumbull Times.  And you can see everything else they did to explore and celebrate Kenny on their fine website: http://dfsreads.weebly.com/

But that is not all, oh no, that is not all.  Daniels Farm wanted to reach beyond their own lucky and blessed families.  Ms. Davis reached out to nearby Bridgeport and developed a partnership with Edison E.S., an urban school with different needs and challenges, and fewer resources.  Ms. Davis spread One School, One Book to Edison and shepherded them thru the program. Daniels Farm families donated their copies of Humphrey – and Kenny and the Dragon – and Ms. Davis secured funds to procure the necessary extra copies so everyone at Edison could participate.

It’s that kind of forward thinking – consistency, expansion, pay it forward – that makes us proud at Read to Them to recognize Daniels Farm’s achievement in 2014.  Creating a culture of literacy takes dedication and passion, imagination and hard work.  And the right program.  Daniels Farm sets a fine example for all.  Their families – and Bridgeport’s! – are the beneficiaries.  Congratulations to Leslie and her team.  What will you do in 2015?



2013 Model School: Chanute Elementary School

Successful OSOB representatives come from all over the country, in all shapes and sizes. In 2013 Read to Them is proud to point to Chanute Elementary School in Chanute, Kansas and honor them as our 2013 One School, One Book School of the Year.

Chanute’s inaugural effort was led by a team of eager instigators – Sandy Roecker, Julie Shaw, and Karen Vallier. The Chanute team attended RTT’s presentation at the 2012 IRA Convention in Chicago – and came back to Kansas ready to spread the word and make OSOB happen in Chanute.

Chanute is one of the larger elementary schools to embark on the OSOB voyage – 678 families in 2013. But Sandy and Julie and Karen geared up and prepared their entire, large community for their experience – and their efforts paid off.

The folks at Chanute did all the things you can think of to pull off a great, fulfilling One School, One Book experience. And they shared their results.

The Chanute trio started by running radio ads to build anticipation for the arrival of their book. They put up posters in the hallway. When their book was announced – the ever popular The World According to Humphrey – each classroom adopted its own stuffed hamster to care and learn from. (And photograph.) Teachers readily shared and posted their art from their Humphrey experience.

It took two assemblies to introduce Chanute’s families to Humphrey – using Read to Them’s Aldo the Custodian skit to do so. Of course they also inveigled author, Betty G. Birney to send them a Welcome video, too.

To maximize their experience, they handed out copies of Humphrey to everyone in their community – not only families and teachers – but all staff – P.E. staff, special ed. teachers, administrative staff – and of course the custodians, cafeteria personnel, and bus drivers who we now know always like to be included in the community experience of One School, One Book.

Chanute was also aggressive handing out prizes to the answerers/winners of daily and weekly trivia questions – including board games and flash lights for reading under the covers. (Now that’s how to create a culture of reading!)

Julie, Karen, and Sandy also co-ordinated wide community support for their project. High school students recorded Humphrey out loud for their – temporary – school servers. And Chanute’s efforts were widely covered in the local press.

The Chanute team has also prepared to present and share their experience with One School, One Book at local, state, and national reading conferences.

And they went the extra mile, not merely suggesting to families that they read the 7 Humphrey sequels. Chanute actually purchased extra copies of each title and made them available for interested families. Now that is truly how to establish the habit of reading together – what we call the culture of reading.

For these wide-ranging and successful efforts – and that they may be a beacon of inspiration to all One School, One Book members – new, veteran, and future – Read to Them is proud to name Chanute Elementary School its 2013 One School, One Book School of the Year.

We can’t wait to see what Chanute does with Bette Bao Lord’s In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson in 2014.



2012 Model School: Gurney Elementary School

In 2011-2012, Read to Them’s One School, One Book program grew to include over 350 schools (almost a 50% increase). Most of that growth is attributable to word of mouth – satisfied schools and motivated parents sharing word of their experience. That word of mouth is itself inspired by the pace-setting efforts of schools like Gurney Elementary School in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Read to Them is proud to announce that Gurney E.S. is its 2012 Model School of the Year. In its first two years Gurney has read two books- George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square and Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays. All schools must choose what to do to promote their selection and create excitement about their reading experience over the course of the month they do One School, One Book. All schools have fun using RTT resources as well as creating their own – from trivia questions to assemblies, from assorted playful and book-centered souvenirs to all manner of supplementary activities and events.  Many schools now make full use of the web and modern technology to post photographs and trivia questions, and even to post mp3 files with chapters read by guest readers.

Gurney has gone to town on each of these ideas – taking them each one step beyond. Gurney has augmented each idea they have taken up – and they have created a plethora of their own ideas. They serve as an inspiration (sometimes an intimidating inspiration) for other schools to follow. They set a high standard for other schools to follow – and follow Gurney they have.

In 2011 Gurney did everything from creating their own Times Square subway station newsstand in their gymnasium, to selling snacks at said station (and donating the proceeds to a 9.11 relief fund), to bringing in the Cleveland Opera Company to bring their book alive for Kindergarteners (lucky Kindergarteners!), to posting every chapter of their book online for families to download and share, to serving liverwurst at their end of book/month banquet.  Students and families truly lived in the world of The Cricket in Times Square for a month. Gurney has done as much (or more) than any school to embody a culture of literacy among its families.

In 2012 Gurney continued to innovate and achieve while reading and celebrating Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays. This year Gurney held a book drive in the snow (with pix!); brought everyone from a juggler to dueling pianos to visiting artists (who of course visited classrooms) all to illustrate what you can do with your Saturdays; and established a new technology template when they held Skype Night. Students from Gurney used their computers to read and share chapters from their book with grandparents and siblings in college all across the country. (And they took pictures.)

For celebrating their book(s) with such enthusiasm, for being an exemplar and inspiration for schools across the country, for bringing an old/new title back to life (from 1941!), and for sharing their ideas and images with all comers – Read to Them is proud to name Gurney Elementary School in Chagrin Falls, Ohio its 2012 Model School of the Year. Keep up the great work, Gurney – and help us inspire the next 350 OSOB schools. You truly are helping expand the continent-wide Community of Readers.



2011 Model School: Dr. Gerald B. Probe Elementary School

Read to Them is proud to acknowledge that in 2011 there are now over 200 member schools participating in the One School, One Book program – in the United States AND Canada. Efforts to develop and spread OSOB in Canada have been spear-headed by Michelle Dimnik, currently the Learning Support Teacher at Dr. Gerald B. Probe School in Lethbridge, Alberta. As of this writing, there are currently 12 elementary schools in Alberta participating in One School, One Book, but before your finish reading this there may be more. Dr. Probe’s success has created a burgeoning Community of Readers that has spread across the district in Lethbridge. To honor their creativity, drive, pathbreaking efforts, and success, Dr. Gerald B. Probe is Read to Them’s 2011 Model School of the Year.

Dimnik first heard of the program innocently enough – she read about it Reading Today. In 2008, supported by her principal, Bill Bartlett, Dr. Probe read it’s first OSOB book – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Shiloh. (In fact, Probe was the first school to use Shiloh, and it has since been added to the OSOB Recommended Book List.) The Probe OSOB committee created and developed all their own resources. To develop enthusiasm for Shiloh, their efforts included three separate assemblies involving dogs or personnel who worked with dogs. And news about that kind of excitement spreads…

Dimnik is a member of several regional organizations that promote books, reading, and literacy in western Canada. She co-chairs the Rocky Mountain Book Awards; helped organize the Weaving Words Annual Conference and Young Writer’s Workshop; and serves on both the Lethbridge Children’s Roundtable and the Lethbridge School District 51Lit Circle Group. She used her contacts and experience to spread her news and insight about One School, One Book at Dr. Probe.

In 2009 Dr. Probe read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamilo, a book that is fast becoming one of the most popular, dependable, and far-reaching OSOB selections. It, too, has been added to the OSOB Recommended Books List.

In 2010 Dr. Probe read The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies. The Probe team innovated again by choosing and using a book that allowed Dr. Probe to utilize and promote math into it’s One School, One Book activities – the first school to do so.

In 2011 Dr. Probe read its fourth book, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary.

The hard work by the Probe team caught fire. In the time since first reading Shiloh, Dimnik has made at least nine presentations to regional educational and literacy groups; Bev Rayner, the Probe Librarian, has presented to librarians across the Lethbridge district and submitted articles about Probe’s efforts to literary journals; and Rhona Harkness, a Grade 2 teacher at Probe, has made two presentations of her own – all to promote the One School, One Book program. Thanks to their efforts, school after school in Lethbridge (and beyond) has heard of the Community of Readers established there – and called or written to establish the One School, One Book program on their own. Dimnik and Probe were featured in stories in the regional newspaper and on television.

Dr. Probe’s success was due to a thorough team effort – and it is that kind of creative, thorough-going effort that enabled One School, One Book to spread across the district. As a result of the publicity Dr. Probe generated, OSOB schools presently participating in Alberta include Children of St. Martha School, Fleetwood-Bawden Elementary School, Galbraith School, General Stewart Elementary School, Lakeview Elementary School, Mike Mountain Horse Elementary School, Nicholas Sheran School, Park Meadows Elementary School, Senator Buchanan School, Sunnyside School, Granum School, and Rimbey Christian School.

Through its partnership with the International Reading Association, Read to Them has been promoting the district expansion of OSOB – an expansion termed One District, One Book. These efforts have led to the creation of vast communities of readers – thousands strong – in Bentonville, Arkansas; in Martinsburg, West Virginia; and in Hampton, Manassas, and Hanover County, Virginia (respectively). But nowhere is the community larger or growing faster than in Lethbridge, Alberta – thanks to the pioneering efforts of Dr. Gerald B. Probe Elementary School. Congratulations!

(If you wish to find out more about how to spread One School, One Book beyond your school and across your district – you can contact Michelle Dimnik, here. She will be presenting on this very question with the One School, One Book team at the IRA Convention in Orlando, Florida in May.)


2010 Model School: Timmons Elementary School

Read To Them is proud to announce that our 2010 One School, One Book Model School of the Year is Timmons Elementary School in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Timmons is a school of 700 students, focusing on grades 1-3. As such, it perfectly comprises a core target audience for One School, One Book – students just learning to read or read well. Some schools balk or flinch at reading a full-fledged chapter book out loud to 1st graders – but not at Timmons.

Principal Katie Poe adopted the program and hit the ground running. They read Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. The complete list of all activities promoted and conducted by Katie Poe and Timmons Elementary (in their first year!) is too exhausting to review here. A brief recap of the highlights follows. The complete list can be found on the Timmons’ One School, One Book website page.

Timmons designed their own One School, One Book trademark, put it on stationary, and used it on all communications with parents and staff. You can see it on their website now. Timmons was very aggressive in laying the ground work for their very first all school read. The faculty was prepped with copies of the books and a meeting filled with teasers and goodies ahead of time. Clues to the book’s identity – including surprise visits from “characters” in the novel – were included in their school assembly and announcement of the title. Therapy dogs visited Timmons’ library 29 times over the course of their reading of Because of Winn-Dixie.

They even devised three different sets of trivia questions for different grade levels. They contacted author, Kate DiCamillo, and received a personal kudo. They brought in an “artist in residence” who helped Timmons’ 29 different classrooms incorporate their respective contributions and designs into a home-grown graphic novelization of the book. Principal Poe personally recorded podcasts of each chapter – and posted them on the website for families that had difficulty reading together. The school saw to it that their efforts were covered in the local press, and offered numerous pictorial slide shows posted on their website to document and share their many fun-filled activities.

And to close, Poe even rented a theatre for her student body for a special showing of the film version of Because of Winn-Dixie.

The Timmons’ One School, One Book website page also includes a rich trove of resources and materials – for parents, for teachers, and for us! – including useable testimonials from students, teachers, and parents. (Use them!)

Yes, all that sounds above and beyond the call of duty. But in truth, it is merely evidence of how much excitement and enthusiasm can be generated “when a whole school reads a book.”

We expect Timmons to become a leader in attracting and recruiting more schools from Cleveland and Ohio to catch and share the magic of One School, One Book. Poe is preparing a Model School presentation – complete with video and supporting files – to showcase One School, One Book in the future. With luck, the Cleveland area will become the next site of Read to Them’s expansive One District, One Book venture.


2009 Model School: Bryan Elementary School

Bryan Elementary School is leading Read To Them’s first ever “cluster” of schools – five schools embarking on the One School, One Book program at the same time. Five schools – every family – all reading the same book, at the same time – at home.

Stacey Walker, reading specialist at Bryan E.S., pioneered the One School, One Book experience in Hampton, VA in the fall of 2007. Her school read Betty G. Birney’s The World According to Humphrey in 2007, and Addy: An American Girl, by Connie Rose Porter in 2008. Bryan’s experience was so rewarding that some school administrators credited it with raising Bryan’s test scores to re-accreditation levels.

Thanks to Walker’s evangelical efforts, word has spread. Now Bryan will lead four “sister” schools in Hampton, VA – John B. Cary E.S, Machen E.S., Tarrant E.S., and Tyler E.S. All five schools will be reading the same book – the Humphrey sequel, Trouble According to Humphrey, by Betty G. Birney – at the same time, over the course of an entire month (sometime in the fall of 2009).

Walker hopes that Read to Them’s idea of “becoming a community of readers” will spread beyond her own school community, beyond the individual school communities, to become an actual Hampton-wide community experience. Now, instead of students and parents and teachers talking about Humphrey’s lessons in the parking lot and at the playground, Hampton students and parents will be talking about Humphrey’s classroom at the grocery store, on the soccer field, and at church. Thanks to Walker’s efforts, Hampton, VA may in fact expand Read to Them’s reach and forge ‘One School, One Book, One Community.’


2008 Model School: Fox Elementary

One School, One Book program stimulates reading interest

When the principal is on board, then the joys and merits of the One School, One Book program become evident to all. According to Daniella Jacobs, principal of William F. Fox Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, “The experience of sharing the book opens up so many levels of conversation between students, teachers, and staff… I love walking through the halls/cafeteria during the program because all of the students want to talk with me about the book, about what I think, what they think, etc. It truly brings literature to life!”

Jacobs added, “If there is any one program that is doable for every school, this is it. It helps to create common knowledge, common vocabulary, and levels the playing field for all of us to come together and discuss something on an academic level.”

Five years ago, families at William Fox began reading E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan at home. The school was initiating the One School, One Book program, in which one book is selected and the entire school community-parents, volunteers, and teachers-reads that book at home over the course of an entire month to the children.

Every morning, former principal Gayle Hefty read a trivia question over the public address system, a question designed to pique and promote interest in the book, to encourage attentive listening at home, and to serve as a daily reminder of the program. Families and teachers were so pleased with the communal experience that the program has continued these past five years. In fact, the program has expanded under Jacobs to include two books a year-one read in the fall and one in the spring.

One School, One Book was the brain-child of Bruce Coffey while serving as a member of a school wide read aloud committee at Fox. Along with seven other public elementary schools in Virginia, they sought to find a sly way for every family in the school to read aloud daily in their homes. Their efforts were under the original auspices of Read Aloud Virginia and later became an integral part of Read to Them.

Coffey now works for Richmond-based Read to Them, trying to improve elementary school reading ability and create lifetime readers. Read to Them’s lead program, One School, One Book, inspires families to read aloud at home, and shows them how by doing it as a community.

According to Coffey, the larger purpose of the One School, One Book program is to promote a culture of reading among young people. “People fret about the ubiquity of television and video games,” he said, “but we can change behavior. A generation ago, women smoked and drank when they were pregnant, and corporal punishment was commonplace. But today, we’ve created cultural taboos against those things. We can do the same thing-a positive thing-with reading out loud. Reading to your children should be something every responsible family does.”

While Coffey may talk in grandiose terms about the benefits of reading to children, elementary school principals have their eye on more prosaic concerns-raising test scores in reading. Those who have adopted the One School, One Book program believe that reading to students at home can better acclimate and familiarize all children with vocabulary and sentence structure and improve their fluency and reading comprehension when reading on their own.

Coffey emphasized that getting the principal to support the One School, One Book program is the one key premise of a successful program. “It doesn’t matter who the enthusiastic promoter is,” he said. “If she’s all by herself, it’s an uphill battle. But if the principal says, ‘We will read this book to them,’ then everyone stands up and listens-students, teachers, parents.”

Picking the right books

One of the trickiest elements of the One School, One Book program is picking a book that can interest an entire elementary school. The book must be easy enough to be understood by first graders, yet interesting enough to attract fifth graders.

To launch the program at William Fox Elementary School, school leaders selected The Trumpet of the Swan. They reasoned that while most people have read Charlotte’s Web, White’s other works are lesser known.

Since then, the school has tackled an array of books with different themes and styles, including the following (publication dates refer to most recent editions):

The Trumpet of the Swan, by E. B. White – fall, 2002

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis – fall, 2003

Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo – fall, 2004

The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks – fall 2005

Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech – spring, 2006

The BFG, by Roald Dahl – fall, 2006

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien – spring, 2007

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George – fall, 2007

Heartbeat, by Sharon Creech – spring, 2008

Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – fall, 2008

The One School, One Book program at William Fox Elementary School has been copied by two dozen schools in Virginia, as well as by scores of other schools across the continental United States (and Canada). The program is endorsed and promoted by the national reading organization Read to Them.


2007 Model School: Northumberland Elementary

Parents Participating in Record Numbers!

What would you say if someone told you about a parent involvement program that had 60% of a school’s parents participating the first year of implementation and as many as 85% in grades Pre K through 3rd in the following two years? No doubt this would be of interest to any school system. This occurred in a Virginia rural tidewater community near the Chesapeake Bay.

Northumberland Elementary School parents are participating in Read Aloud Virginia (RAV), a program that encourages and rewards participants for reading aloud nightly to their children every day (every child 20 minutes every day). They are encouraged to read two or three years beyond the child’s age (or reading level), so children can be exposed to more complex language, sentence structure, and more difficult content area, than can be read independently by the child. Parents initial a calendar nightly after reading aloud. Each child is asked to hand in one book report each month on a simple book report form, which parent and child complete together.

Northumberland’s School Superintendent, Clint Staples, E. Ed., started out as an assistant principal at their middle school twenty-two years ago and has worked his way to the top. “I’m 100 % behind our Read Aloud Virginia program and believe that parental involvement is key. When the parents read aloud and the children listen, it builds a solid foundation for literacy skills as well as a stronger relationship at home. You should hear some of the positive feedback I hear from the community and our School Board. Reading scores are increasing and this program is a big factor.”

Read Aloud Virginia Utilizes One School, One Book Program

One of the most exciting Read Aloud Virginia activities conducted at Northumberland Elementary School this past year, was a ONE SCHOOL, ONE BOOK event. The designated book was Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DeCamillo. This is a charming story about a girl and her dog, but more importantly about losses, love and survival. Each family wishing to participate purchased a copy of the book and some paid additional money to purchase scholarship books for families unable to do so. Chapters were assigned each night and soon EVERYONE wanted the book! Northumberland RAV Coordinator, Mrs. Jan Bates, said over 600 books was distributed (and the school population is only 680)! Soon custodians, school secretaries, special area teachers, paraprofessional aides, cafeteria workers and even members of the County Board of Supervisors ALL wanted a copy of the book. Daily trivia questions on the school morning show heightened interest, and NO ONE wanted to be left out! At a Spring Parent Information Night, many parents commented on how delightful this nightly reading became. Parents requested suggestions for other chapter books their families might enjoy as well. Already parents and children are asking what the book for next year will be, reports Mrs. Bates.

How did this parent program impact the school? Besides a general boost to the joy of reading, one could speculate that children’s listening literacy was affected positively. One possible example of this would be in 3rd grade. All 3rd grades ended the year with 100% of these 3rd grade parents reading nightly to their children. Coincidentally, the state achievement scores for 3rd grade showed marked improvement this year. On the Virginia State Standards of Learning Exam, 3rd graders scored 90% or better on 4 of the 5 categories. While this is due to a number of factors, we feel that their success with RAV had to have impacted their overall academic success.

One of the reasons RAV works at Northumberland Elementary School is due to a partnership with the Northumberland Woman’s Club. Volunteer club members help the RAV coordinator tally each classes monthly percentages and also read to children when a teachers asks for their assistance in reaching a classroom goal of 100% participation. They also support all special events both monetarily and with service as needed at these functions.

The year ended with a “Summer Reading/Summer Safety Ice Cream Social”, sponsored by the Northumberland Elementary School, the Northumberland Public Library and the Northumberland Woman’s Club. Participants at this event included the local Sheriff’s Dept. YMCA, Northumberland County Electric Cooperative, and the Virginia State Marine Police. For the past three years there has been a kickoff event for the summer reading program. However, this year the number of attendees doubled. Could it be that parents are seeing the value of reading? Could it be that the cycle of illiteracy is being broken?

It truly does take a community effort to impact family literacy. Read Aloud Virginia has thrust us toward realizing our literacy goals for ALL families in our county, where illiteracy has been generational. We are grateful that is changing.

If you or your school is interested in becoming a part of a network of Read to Them affiliated schools, please check out our website rttmain.wpengine.com.