One School, One Book

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The_Cricket_in_Times_Square_Cover-1Roars of laughter from delighted children resonated from the gym recently at Brookdale Elementary School when the entire student body—grades K through 4—was assembled to kick off an exciting school-wide endeavor known as One School, One Book (OSOB).

To rev them up for the challenge of reading an entire book together at the same pace—one chapter per night–the children were treated to a video presentation followed by an inspired original dance to the familiar tune of the Black-eyed Peas hit “I Gotta Feeling”. Wearing matching attire (white shirts and blue jeans), the entire faculty—including Principal Richard Rampolla—took the stage and danced in unison as the children quickly caught on to the lyrics, which were appropriately tweaked to “I Gotta Feeling…It’s Gonna Be a Good, Good Book!”

Library media specialist—and dance choreographer-Corisa Walker brought OSOB to Verona after learning about it from a national, non-profit organization called Read to Them. “The idea of OSOB is to unite a school community in literacy by having everyone—not just the kids and their parents but the entire staff including the administrators as well as the custodians—read the same book at the same time,” explains Walker who received funding from the Verona Foundation for Educational Excellence (VFEE). For the school’s reading pleasure Ms. Walker chose The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, which was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1961.

Walker believes this beloved classic is an ideal selection. “The Cricket in Times Square is a timeless tale of friendship between a city mouse and a country cricket that all age groups can relate to,” she says. “Additionally, I thought the book would give parents a nostalgic connection.”

According to Walker the adults appreciate the opportunity to share a book they loved from their own childhoods today with their kids. “Several parents have shared their fond memories with me and say they are really enjoying the experience.”

The Brookdale staff dance to kick off One School, One Book
The Brookdale staff dance to kick off One School, One Book
The other reason the librarian gave for picking Cricket is Verona’s proximity to New York City, the setting of the story. “Many students have visited Times Square and ridden the subway,” says Walker who joined the district at the start of the current school year. “It’s really unique when a child can visualize a book in such a vivid and personal way.”

To make the experience as interactive as possible, a Web site was established where readers can respond to questions posted by Walker and blog about their thoughts while reading the book. “Some blog posts will be read aloud on the morning announcements,” says Walker who encourages all participants to visit the Web site and get involved.

“To say that the response on the Web site has been overwhelming is an understatement. I wrote the first blog post Monday afternoon, and when I hit publish I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d get a response,” Walker admits. “ Within five minutes my e-mail was pinging and we had almost 250 comments on the first night!”

One recent blog post—”Have you ever been to NYC?“—netted over 100 responses including a charming poem posted by F.N. Brown fourth grade teacher Louis Waibel. (F.N. Brown students are also participating in OSOB and enjoyed a similar assembly held prior to the one at Brookdale.) There have also been many lively classroom discussions about whether readers identify more with the country cricket or the city mouse.

At the assembly students received copies of the book along with a schedule. It’s not too late to join the fun—the schools are now up to chapter 6. (The book is available in the Verona Public Library.) “The chapters only take about 15 minutes to read and we’ll be finished with the book in time for spring break,” Walker says adding that reading and blogging together as a community is a wonderful way connect. “To see families all over town so actively participating in this shared experience is beyond anything I could have imagined. It honestly brings tears of joy to my eyes.”

Spoken like a true librarian indeed.

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