Please help me welcome today’s guest blogger Susan Dee. Susan is currently a 4th/5th Grade Literacy teacher at Biddeford Intermediate School in Biddeford, Maine and adjunct instructor for the Department of Literacy, Language, and Culture at the University of Southern Maine. Susan has 25 years of teaching experience in pre-k through 5th grade. She is an avid reader and recommender who is devoted to fostering a joyful reading life in readers of ALL ages! Susan is co-host of #MELit, Maine’s monthly Literacy Twitter Chat and chairperson of #nErDcampNNE.
Building a Reading Community: One Book, One School, One Library
I just love the looks on students’ faces when they meet the authors of books they have read face-to-face. There really is nothing else quite like it! When kids get to meet an author of a book they have read, a very special connection is made. Students are energized and inspired with a deeper appreciation of reading and writing. When a student can “touch” the hand behind the printed page of the book they’ve read, books become more deeply personal and important.
In 2009, our school’s Literacy Team began a bi-annual One Book, One School, One Library event, in partnership with our city’s public library, that has become a hallmark of our school community. This event is so powerful because not only does the entire school community read the same book, but then we bring the author of the chosen book to our school for three days of visits! Planning for this event begins the previous year, as the committee discusses and chooses the book/author we want to invite. Once the book/author are selected, a copy of the book is purchased for every single person in our school, including office staff, custodians, and our cafeteria staff. We also purchase a copy of the book for the Children’s Room staff at our local library, our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent and School Board members.
Approximately two months before the author is scheduled to visit, we hold a Book Distribution Assembly where we announce the author’s visit and that each reader is getting their own copy of the book! The energy in the room is not unlike the excitement of being at the seventh game of the World Series, with the Boston Red Sox taking it all! The excitement is palpable! Teachers are provided with a Resources Packet of materials to support literacy instruction and everyone is encouraged to begin reading the book. It’s always music to my reading heart as conversations about the book we are reading spill out into the hallways, at lunch and recess, and as students are waiting for their buses! The hum of book love….nothing like it!
And then the author arrives! We start the morning off by welcoming the visiting author to our school! As they walk through the tunnel of cheering, clapping students and adults you can already sense the connections being made. The huge smiles on student faces and the overwhelming look of gratitude on the author’s face always reconfirm to me how powerful the three days will be for our students. After a whole school assembly, where the author talks about their writing life and books in more general terms, classrooms are treated to a 50 minute small group session with no more the 40 students in each session. During these sessions, the author speaks specifically about the book we’ve all read. The questions and conversations are so much deeper because everyone has the shared experience of a common text. I love watching and hearing the interactions between the students and the authors. They are always so heartfelt and genuine!
Putting together a One Book, One School, One Library event takes thoughtful planning by our school’s Literacy Team and couldn’t happen without the financial support of our Parent Teacher Association. When you bring an author to your school, you are not only helping your students, you are also supporting the art of writing! It’s an investment of time and money that has long lasting effects for everyone involved!
|Whole School Assembly with Children’s Author Lynn Plourde, Illustrator Ben Bishop, and surprise guest Donn Fendler|
Thank you Susan for sharing about this wonderful experience! What you have done is absolutely amazing. I am in awe. I also love the thought of hearing “the hum of book love.” Heaven on earth!