Heuvelton school seeks to build community of readers with One School, One Book campaign
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 5:31 pm

HEUVELTON -- The students at Heuvelton Central School recently launched the One School, One Book campaign.

Principal Shannon Jordan said in a press release that all elementary students and their families will be reading one book, "The World According to Humphrey," during a three-week period in May as part of the campaign.

The book, written by Betty G. Birney, takes a look at life in an elementary classroom through the eyes of a mischievous hamster.

Ms. Jordan said School Superintendent Susan Todd learned about the One School, One Book program at a superintendent's meeting and brought the program back to the elementary school.

"This idea of One School, One Book One District was established to build a community of readers in hopes of instilling the love of reading among children through the supports of the entire elementary school, their families and even the bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and the maintenance staff. Families were given a letter inviting them to read to their child at home each night. “Ms. Jordan said.

"We gathered a group of teachers with our school librarian, Joan Fisher, leading the way to choose a middle-level book and began the planning. Together, they chose the book, created the reading schedule, developed the idea of teachers doing theme bulletin boards and even bought a hamster to school that was later named Humphrey," she added.

Heuvelton students each received their own copy of the book along with a bookmark and an at-home family reading schedule. Not only does the program allow the students to be involved in a schoolwide event, they get to keep their books.

“They’ll take the book home and their families will read together - a chapter each night. In fact, the entire school will be on the same reading schedule, so everyone will be able to talk about it with their family and friends,” according to Read to Them Program Coordinator Cathy Mitchell.

“It’s a short chapter book that will captivate the whole family and the whole community with its humor and sweet life lessons. While the families are reading at home, the school will celebrate the reading event with assemblies, activities and daily trivia questions.”

The students were introduced to the project and the book at a kickoff in the auditorium. They had a video from the author of the book as well as having the school's mascot, Champ the bulldog, read chapter 1 to them. Students also got to see a photograph of the school's own Humphrey the hamster. Humphrey will be making visits to the classrooms throughout the month of May.

Ms. Jordan said the guest readers -- ranging from Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, and Heuvelton Mayor Barbara Lashua to school administrators, the school's building and grounds director, Chris Cole, and superintendent's secretary Tessa Herron -- were videotaped so students could have an opportunity to listen to the chapters at home read by special community members so they could have a special treats after reading the chapters with their family members. The chapter reads can be downloaded from the school website, heuvelton.schoolfusion.us/.

“One School, One Book is a program based on research showing that when children are read to, they learn to read more easily themselves. Ultimately, students’ reading abilities are improved,” according to Ms. Mitchell. “Not only that, but the experience of One School, One Book draws the school and community together and students are reminded that reading can be fun.”

Read to Them, the nonprofit organization that promotes One School, One Book, says having all students in a school reading the same book has a number of positive impacts.

“[The One School, One Book program] educates families and schools on the benefits and importance of reading aloud at home. A growing body of research describes the complex and permanent effects of reading aloud. Children who are read to learn to read more easily and become better readers. Literacy skills provide the basis for a lifetime of learning and productivity,” according to the nonprofit's web page.

Assemblywoman Jenne visited the school for the campaign launch.

“I was eager to visit Heuvelton to learn more about this community-based reading campaign and how it engages our students,” said Assemblywoman Jenne. “Reading is a critical component of a student’s education and childhood development that opens countless doors to the imagination.”