From March 11 to April 10, every person at Field Stevenson Elementary School—including students, teachers and administrators—will be reading the same book at the same time, as part of the school’s fifth “One School, One Book” initiative.
One School, One Book is a nationwide program started by Read to Them, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a culture of literacy in every home, according to its website. The program, whose purpose is to foster literacy by incentivizing students to read with their family, was introduced to Field Stevenson in 2014 by Principal Tiffany Brunson. It is now run by the school’s Reading Specialist Ashley Kern and Librarian Heather Mills.
Each year since the program’s inception, every student, teacher and staff member at Field Stevenson receives a hard copy of the same book free of charge.
“The buzz around the school is that the kids are really excited to read the book. Even for kids who aren’t big readers or don’t have support at home, they can’t wait to read at home,” Kern said.
The program kicked off with a school assembly, which took place on March 11, and includes nightly trivia questions, which the students turn in the following day at lunch time. This is Kern’s first year managing the program, and she said she is responsible for the new daily trivia question, videos to communicate with families and students and the kick-off event.
And so far, the program has had an impressively positive response from students and families. Every student has participated the nightly trivia activity. Trivia winners announce the following day’s trivia winner over the school’s loud speaker every day. Kern said no students or families have complained about the extra work.
“We want parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to be as involved as possible,” Kern said. “It gives family the time to sit down and read with their children.”
The hope is that having the entire community reading the same book will foster excitement about reading in children.
This year’s book—titled “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by author Chris Grabenstein—was chosen by Mills based on the book’s readability level, student interest and overall messaging. The book is the first of a four-part series, giving students the opportunity to continue reading.
“Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” revolves around a group of kids who are tasked with writing an essay and are required to stay overnight in a library. The challenge comes when the kids get trapped in the library and have to find their way out. The book is written like a game, and the kids in the story must solve a set of clues. The book itself conveys a message of the importance of reading, as the kids in the book who read more books and have a larger frame of reference are able to solve more clues, while the characters who are not as well-read have more trouble escaping.
More than 25 books are referenced in the story, and Mills has set those books on display in the Field Stevenson library to encourage students to further their reading.
“I always ask [students], ‘Who did you read with?’ because I want to know that their families are reading with them,” Kern said.
According to research collected on the Read to Them website, reading scores and literacy rates have declined nationwide, a phenomenon correlated to the rising availability of smartphones and other technology that grab attention more readily than books, which tend to be less stimulating to the senses and therefore less enticing.
To reverse the effect of technology on literacy trends, administration at Field Stevenson has set out to bridge the home and school connection. The program seeks to communicate to students and families the benefits of reading. According to the Read to Them website, besides increased literacy, reading at home “strengthens the emotional bonds between the adult reader and the child, providing those positive parent-child connections essential to a child’s psychological health and academic growth.” The program also provides parents a reminder of the importance of making time for reading, as slipping out of the habit of reading becomes easy outside of a school setting. According to Kern, from March to April, “Everyone is reading.”