One School, One Book

Photo:   John Beck students celebrate completion of the One School, One Book program, funded by the Warwick Education Foundation.

By Katie Grisbacher

For the fourth year in a row, the whole school community at John Beck Elementary is reading together … all the same book! In a program funded by Warwick Education Foundation Innovative Education Grants, John Beck students and families have read books such as Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White, and Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo.

One School, One Book is the flagship program of Read to Them, a non-profit with a mission to create a culture of literacy in every home.

“One School, One Book is a unique program in that children at all grade levels (listen) to the same book,” wrote Colleen Heckman, learning facilitator at John Beck, in a letter to parents. “Daring as this may seem, it actually makes educational sense. Reading professionals recommend reading material out loud that is beyond a child’s reading level.”

Heckman also believes that parents can and should continue reading chapter books with older children, even when they are able to read by themselves.

“It is challenging selecting a story that can be shared with kindergarten through sixth grade students and families, but so far each selection has been well received,” said Heckman. “I think the most popular story was the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane … a powerful, heart wrenching story that pulled children and adults in from the first page to the last.”

This year’s selection, Jake and Lily, by Jerry Spinelli, is a story about two children who learn what makes them special and unique even though they are twins. Themes of life challenges, family traditions, sibling rivalry, and discovering one’s own talents make this book ideal for family reading.

The book selection is kept secret until the “big reveal” at a school assembly, at which the youngest sibling in each family receives a copy of the book to bring home. Parents receive a five-week reading calendar (about 10 minutes of out-loud reading per night) with suggestions for family discussion. Back at school, students respond to daily trivia questions about the book, with small prize drawings for students who answer correctly.

“We are enjoying winding down each evening with another few pages of Jake and Lily,” said parent Tammy Charles. Her children, Justin and Leah, are not twins – they are 17 months apart – but have always been very close. “We find ourselves talking about the book’s close sibling relationship and substituting their names for Jake and Lily’s, since they start with the same letters as the book characters.”

Parent Beth Stoyer found she had to buy more herbal tea than usual. “My boys love to listen to the chapters before bed after getting into comfy clothes and then sipping on their warm tea,” said Stoyer. “It’s a great family activity that makes you sloooow down on a cold winter night. We are enjoying it.”

Many schools throughout Lancaster County have adopted the One School, One Book program after hearing of its success at John Beck, including Lititz Elementary. “I’m thankful the WEF continues to see value in this grant,” said Heckman. “I am hopeful … we can grow this concept across our elementary schools.”

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