Four Years of OSOB With Booth Tarkington Elementary

Booth Tarkington Elementary in Wheeling, Illinois has been actively participating in One School, One Book for four years. As Ryann Rivers, the librarian at Booth Tarkington, looks back on their previous reading events, the growth between their first and most recent event is like an acorn to a tree. 

“The first year, I gave families too much time to read the book,” Rivers says. Booth Tarkington’s first OSOB title was The Lemonade War. “I wasn’t sure everyone was reading the book. We were able to have the author Jacqueline Davies at our school for an author visit so that was a great incentive for reading. I also had family engagement nights, but I still didn’t have the formative data on whether families were reading the book or how they felt about it.” 

Booth Tarkington students created their own wish tree during their school-wide read.

Booth Tarkington students created their own wish trees.

During their latest OSOB, however, Rivers and her school took advantage of the technological advances brought forth by COVID-19. Google Meet became instrumental in hosting bi-weekly lives for students and their families to engage with Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. Rivers even created her own self-paced Kahoots that families played in conjunction with the chapter readings. 

Rivers first heard about OSOB at AISLE (Association of Illinois School Library Educators), a state library conference which features presentations for tech, STEM, and library teachers. 

“I hoped OSOB would create a community of readers,” Rivers shares. “A presenter from a neighboring school district was talking about how they used OSOB in their school.  I liked the idea that everyone could have a common language (the book) we are all reading to connect them.” 

Rivers always puts a great deal of thought behind selecting her school’s OSOB title. Given that Booth Tarkington has bilingual programs, she starts with books that are available in Spanish before working on a presentation for her principal. 

“I tell him all the reasons we should use this book,” Rivers explains. “And my plan with how I would engage families and students. [My principal] usually asks me to select a couple of classroom teachers to read the book from the perspective of their students, typically K – 2, and get feedback.” 

As the school librarian, Rivers is also able to get feedback from families. She shares a survey at the end of each OSOB about family’s interest in potential titles for the next program, something that’s been increasingly valuable in narrowing down her book list. 

“For me, library programming is at the heart of the school,” Rivers says. “It brings the fun. It brings the party. OSOB is exactly that– an opportunity to bring the love of reading in a fun and engaging way.”

Though Rivers admits it’s hard to get 100% participation from families, she believes that if she can get one new family to participate in OSOB when they hadn’t previously, the program was a success. 

“Students look forward to participating in OSOB each year,” Rivers claims. “OSOB has definitely created a reading culture at my school.”

One family at Booth Tarkington created a massive hamster maze for Humphrey. A student watches Humphrey the hamster navigate the maze.

“…one family even built a huge hamster maze!”

One of the fondest OSOB memories came from a library hamster Rivers obtained during her school’s reading of The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney. The students (naturally) named the hamster Humphrey. Kids brought carrots from their lunches to drop off at Humphrey’s cage, and one family even built a huge hamster maze. Like Birney’s Humphrey, the Humphrey at Booth Tarkington couldn’t be contained to one room. 

“I have so many fond memories of her in her ball rolling around the school,” Rivers says. “She was even able to drive her hamster car in the Halloween Parade! She was easily the most popular thing at school.” 

When asked to advise first year OSOB participants, Rivers claims that crafting a plan and sticking to it is essential. Communication is essential in connecting with families and keeping them involved for the duration of the program.

“I used Parentsquare which our district uses to communicate with families,” Rivers says. “It was the most effective way to get information to families as reminders of upcoming events related to the book and ways to participate.” 

Several boxes filled with family resources are shown.

“Just a fraction of family packets Rivers put together for her school.”

However, biggest of all, Rivers says that it’s important – and encouraged– to ask for help from teachers and staff in launching the program. 

“I am really bad at this,” Rivers admits. “I usually enlist the help of other staff members and my own family members. Also, teachers will see me working on something (like stuffing envelopes with the books and other papers for 450 families) and will volunteer to help. I have even had custodians offer assistance!”

She feels very fortunate to have the support of her school administration and staff. With so many elements that go into planning a successful OSOB, and if you feel as though your ideas may be turned down at every turn, it can be defeating. 

“Did my principal love the hamster?” Rivers says. “No. [But] was he able to see that having her was an integral part of the book’s excitement? Yes.” 

Looking ahead, though, Rivers likes the seemingly endless possibilities of what she might do to engage families with different books in Read to Them’s catalog. She has a tendency to “brainstorm all the possible events and ways to hook readers” and proceed with the title best fit for her school community. 

“There are so many other books that I have ideas for,” Rivers shares. “And that will keep me – and OSOB– going for years to come.” 


8 Years of OSOB at North Shore Elementary

One School, One Book has been a staple at North Shore Elementary in St. Petersburg, Florida since 2015. The program has even remained strong during the pandemic thanks to the combined efforts of Tracy Leskanic, co-chair Gifted Program Teacher, and Tamara Gramlich, co-chair Library Media Technology Specialist.

North Shore hosted a reading night under the stars.

The dynamic duo build excitement with the support of North Shore’s PTA, as well as the dedicated teachers who help with the “surprise” elements of the event. The selected title is always announced during an awards ceremony attended by all students, staff, and parents.

Looking back at their inaugural OSOB, Leskanic shares that the biggest difference in how they launch their program is a simple yet vital shift:

“We have learned that if we keep [the book title] a mystery for the students, they become more and more excited!”

Gramlich adds, “We had started out using the ‘classics.’ You know – the books that were written way before any of our kids were born. Now, we try to pick books that have a newer copyright. There have been some colorful discussions in [our school’s book] committee when we are choosing a book because we are all so passionate about our pick for the upcoming year. We love the process, and wouldn’t change it for anything.”

North Shore Elementary’s read aloud titles include Kenny and the Dragon, The World According to Humphrey, The Chocolate Touch, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Fenway and Hattie, Appleblossom the Possum, and The Toothpaste Millionaire. Most recently, students at North Shore dove into the magical world of Dragons in a Bag.

“This was the first time in history that we had a Knight on our campus…”

To Leskanic, one of the most unforgettable OSOB experiences was having a real knight in shining armor (Mr. Casey Maker) visit North Shore during Kenny and the Dragon.

“Our school has always been the North Shore Knights,” Gramlich shares. “This was the first time in history that we had a Knight on our campus and to see the kids react to him was amazing. Even though they knew him, it was like they were seeing him for the first time.”

As they look ahead to future OSOB reading events, both Gramlich and Leskanic are eager to move beyond pandemic limitations to make their OSOB “more of an event again.” In the meantime, the steady excitement of their students even after eight years drives them onward.

 “Each year our students will ask when is OSOB? What book is it?” Leskanic says. “They are [always] eager to find out. That, to us, is exciting.”

 


Perkins Elementary Conducts Read-a-Thon for OSOB

Over more than a decade of program launches and anecdotes from educators, Read to Them has found that no One School, One Book looks exactly the same. We are constantly amazed by the ingenuity that program coordinators take to launch a successful event or – in this case– to ensure an OSOB program even lands at their school in the first place.

Anne Ware, K-5 gifted teacher at Perkins Elementary in Pinellas, Florida, first heard of the program through Read to Them’s Florida Regional Representative, Sally Baynard.  As it happens, Ware is one of Baynard’s former students. Ware found herself drawn to OSOB for a number of reasons. What charmed her the most was the prospect of building a stronger school community.

“It was something we desperately needed, especially in these days,” Ware claims.

Ware was incredibly determined to bring OSOB to Perkins, though program funding was, admittedly, an issue. With the aid of former PTA President, Summer Jensen, the two sought a unique initiative that could garner a wide net of support for a school-wide reading event. Ultimately, they settled on conducting a Read-A-Thon. Perkins students were eager to ask friends and family for support– and it was a call happily answered.

“I posted the fundraiser on Facebook and got a lot of support,” Ware shares. “Grandparents love to support reading!”

The fundraiser was a roaring success. With the aid of the Pinellas community, Perkins Elementary raised not only enough money for an OSOB program, but had enough funds remaining to give teachers money for classroom supplies.

“Students still fondly remember the Stella mosaic…”

Perkins selected Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan for their school-wide read.

“It was such a community building experience,” Ware says. “You could not walk through the halls without seeing pictures of the characters [from The One and Only Ivan] posted. In my own window we decorated with coloring work of different characters and posters of character traits!”

Ware’s favorite piece that students created during the program was a collage mosaic out of Rubik’s cubes. The piece depicted Stella, one of Ivan’s elephant companions in the novel, and it was “a very big hit” among the students and staff. 

“The primary classes did lots of art activities based on the book,” Ware says. To nurture further engagement, Ware adds: “There were trivia questions on the [school] news every morning. A few classes even held parental involvement contests.” 

Ware remains hopeful that another One School, One Book program is on the horizon. Students still fondly remember the Stella mosaic, for instance. Seeing the lasting impact and the incredible amounts of potential that remain, Ware’s determination is certain to yield another successful event down the line. 


Introducing At The Lamp-Post

“I can always get back if anything goes wrong,” thought Lucy.
She began to walk forward, crunch-crunch over the snow and
through the wood toward the other light. In about ten minutes
she reached it and found it was a lamp-post.”
          – C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 

Read to Them currently features 150 books in its active catalog. We’re book people, after all, so we’re passionate about carefully selecting books by a wide-range of voices to enrich a child’s personal library. We talk about books and what’s in them every day. Conversations about characters, themes, and even single lines enrich our work and our relationships.  The books we love provide the details that help us build the connections that come from a love of reading.

We’d like to invite you to pull up a chair and join our conversation and share your reading insights, too, by stopping by At The Lamp-Post.

Each month, we’ll select a theme and highlight three books that illustrate subtle aspects of that theme.  In January, we’ll be all about Friendship – how unlikely friends come together, how not all friendships look the same, how vital it is to show vulnerability in a friendship, how friends help you see yourself in a different light.

We’ll be sharing examples of these subtle themes in Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, and Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Our table has plenty of open seats. We can’t wait to talk with you and invite you to make your voice heard.  Please join us this month – At The Lamp-Post!

Be sure to keep up with all the latest updates at The Lamp-Post by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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.


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!


Book Selection at Read to Them

Finding a good book is just as profound as the act of delving into a story. In fact, Read to Them’s staff is constantly on the search for books that students, teachers, and families will all enjoy. It’s a long and careful process, one that wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of Read to Them’s Book Selection Committee. 

The Book Selection Committee (BSC)  is currently composed of nine people: three Read to Them staff members, a member of Read to Them’s board of directors, and five educators from three different states. Together, this group dives into the ever-expanding pool of children’s literature to further enrich Read to Them’s library of titles. 

“First and foremost, we are looking for great stories,” Sara Hudson, Programs Specialist at Read to Them and BSC member, explains. “Books that make you sigh at the end, books that get you immersed in the narrative, books with characters that you want to spend the day with. We are also looking for books that will resonate with a whole school community.” 

The BSC’s goal is to find titles that will keep the Intro, Sweet Spot, Intermediate, and Middle School book lists balanced. It is hoped that new books selected and recommended for Read to Them will be diverse and increase the opportunities for students to see themselves reflected on the page. It’s also important that new books are available in Spanish for schools with Spanish-speaking families. 

We are also always looking for new authors with fresh voices to add to the list,” Hudson says.  “Renée Watson is one such author. We are adding Ways to Make Sunshine in August to our Sweet Spot list, and we are looking at some of her other books for middle school readers.” 

The Book Selection Committee spends six months working to produce each new slate of titles. This diligent process begins with a getting-to-know-you meeting among the members where introductions are traded and any new committee members are welcomed aboard. A second session is held to showcase the books under consideration, a list of titles that accumulates in a stack of approximately 75 titles. During the third meeting, the potential titles list is narrowed to around two dozen titles. 

During the first pruning, every contender is read by at least two people. By the third, pivotal meeting, the remaining books are read by the whole committee to prepare for the final cut.  

Hudson explains: “Committee members submit scorecards for the books they read with their impressions of the book on different characteristics – plot, characters, je ne sais quoi, and any red flags that the committee should consider.”

There are multiple reasons a book might not pass from one stage of the selection process to the next. For instance, a book may seem promising to one committee member, but fall flat among the rest. The book could also be too long, such as a 350 page text for a Sweet Spot contender. A prospective title could also be axed if it doesn’t work for One School, One Book. One such title was Gene Luen Yang’s Dragon Hoops, a graphic novel with wide appeal to many readers, but isn’t a good fit for a school-wide reading event. 

“We have to be cognizant of the wide range of life experiences of a school population,” Hudson says. “Some topics might be too challenging for a school-wide reading event. We want those books in school libraries, classrooms, and the hands of readers. But, we also need to respect the needs of our schools.” 

Once any major red flags clear the BSC’s judgment, a final meeting is held to reach an agreement on the five or six titles that will be added to Read to Them’s available titles. 

Though there is much debate over which titles make the final cut, Hudson reassures that: “The debate process is spirited and lively, but also respectful. We have had good luck on coming to a consensus on our final list.” 

The BSC aims to select titles that everyone is enthusiastic – not divided – about. Read to Them aims for this enthusiasm to be immediately accessible to school leaders who consider suggested Read to Them titles and pick up new ones, too. 

Some books that didn’t quite make it through the last round of selection are carried over for consideration in the next cycle. Many are strong contenders, but their content or theme didn’t quite fit with the other top selections. In a time when children’s literature is richer than ever, though, there’s hardly a shortage of new, poignant work to pair up and select from. 

“It truly is a golden age for children’s literature,” Hudson reflects. “Today’s authors write with such authenticity, compassion, and respect for their young readers. They take their responsibility to these young people seriously, and they are writing books that truly will change lives. Students and families will have deep and meaningful experiences reading these books together.”

Do you have a title, series, or author in mind? You can use the book suggestion tab on the Read to Them website to suggest prospective books you’d like the Book Selection Committee to consider. Or, if you’d like, reach out with your suggestion via Read to Them’s social channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Cobb Imprint Sponsors Virginia School for a Third Year

Students at Crestview Elementary in Henrico, Virginia took part in the Virginia Reads One Book program this past March. They, along with 50 other elementary schools across the state, dove into the timeless pages of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. However, their participation in the program would not have been possible without Cobb Imprint’s support.

Cobb Imprint, the charitable arm of Cobb Technologies, has served as a Read to Them partner since 2019. With their goal to help children in their communities meet and exceed their education potential, Cobb Imprint was eager to aid Crestview Elementary in nurturing its culture of literacy. 

Noah Maphis, Director of Community Outreach at Cobb Technologies, explains that Cobb Imprint’s mission consists of three pillars.

“Promoting food and housing security, promoting wellness, and promoting education and literacy,” Maphis says. She goes on to add that, in their six years of serving communities, Cobb Imprint made a vital observation: “We have learned how important it is for children to have strong literacy skills from an early age.” 

Thanks to the generous donations from Cobb Imprint, Crestview Elementary has participated in three reading events between 2019 and 2021. 

Cobb Imprint works with Read to Them to ensure each student and staff member at Crestview Elementary receives a copy of their selected title, Maphis claims the community support does not end with a donation. 

“We get books out to the community in various ways,” she says. “By partnering with local schools to send students home with “book bags”, setting up reading libraries in after school programs, and providing other local organizations with book donations – such as Read to Them with their One School, One Book program.” 

Maphis is, above all, pleased to note that with every year and every read, participation at Crestview Elementary only grows.

“I know the program not only stimulates the students from an academic standpoint but gives them a sense of community with their peers and the school staff- which is invaluable. We are so honored that we can be a part of that bonding experience.” 

Looking ahead, Maphis hopes she and other members of the Cobb Technologies team can visit Crestview Elementary. All parties are eager to be in a place where books can be distributed in-person and volunteers can read with students again.