PONDER — Signs stating “It’sComing,” “What’s coming” and “It’s a big surprise” posted on walls at PonderElementary School left children wondering what would soon be uncovered.
Teasing the surprise, studentswere shown videos of hamsters running down the school hallway and leaning backin chairs reading.
On Tuesday, students nolonger had to ask what’s coming. They knew.
In a big reveal, school staffkicked off the One School, One Book program, which encourages families to cometogether to read a chapter a night for the next three weeks.
Principal Janell Wilbanksannounced the news, accompanied by three people dressed as life-sized hamstersin Ponder school apparel who arrived on the back lot of the school in a car onloan from a local dealership before the school’s student body, music blaring.
According to schoolofficials, the goal of the One School, One Book program is that the families ofthe school’s 585 students read a chapter from the same book every Mondaythrough Thursday. Also participating in the program are school staff and localbusinesses, school officials said.
Students could either read achapter a day or have someone read to them, and the following day a discussionwill take place at school about the prior day’s chapter. Students will haveopportunities to receive prizes for answering trivia questions about the priorday’s chapter during morning announcements.
School officials say otheractivities are slated over the next three weeks to unite the students aroundthe book everyone is reading.
Reading teachers at theschool said the program gives the community something in common to discuss.
“Our school is more of acommunity and this is a way that we can do something together. We can read thesame book,” said Cheramie Dankesreiter, a fourth-grade reading teacher. “Itdoesn’t matter if you’re a bus driver or a cafeteria worker or a teacher or someonein the office.”
At the conclusion ofTuesday’s presentation, a copy of the children’s book The World According toHumphrey was presented to each family represented at the school. The storyis about the adventures of a hamster named Humphrey, and school staff said theyselected the book because they felt it would appeal to all students.
Students were encouraged totake the book home to read with family members. In instances where siblingsattend Ponder Elementary, the book was sent home with the youngest child.
Dankesreiter brought the ideato incorporate One School, One Book to Ponder Elementary school officials.
“It was totally accidentalthat I even found it,” she said. “I was looking for a good read-aloud lastyear. It just stuck with me. I just kept thinking what if we could do it.”
Dankesreiter said schoolstaff has been preparing for Tuesday’s big reveal since the summer.
She said Ponder Elementary isa Title I school and although many families can afford books, some cannot.
“So it’s really exciting toput a book in the home,” Dankesreiter said.
One School, One Book is theflagship program of Read to Them, a nonprofit organization based in Virginiathat advocates for children being read to at least 15 minutes a day.
Fourth-grader Sarah Lacy saidshe looks forward to reading the designated book for the One School, One Bookprogram with her family.
“It will be a fun activity,”she said.
Cydney Wyatt, anotherfourth-grader, said she loves to read and that it will be “awesome” readingwith siblings.
“It’s awesome to justpractice more reading,” she said. “This is going to be an awesome book.”
Shauna Crumpton, mother offirst- and fifth-grade girls at Ponder Elementary, said she believes theprogram will be a good way of helping her fifth-grader with readingcomprehension and her first-grader with learning to read.
“I think it’s wonderful,” shesaid. “It gets the whole family involved.”
Money from the school’sactivity fund was used to purchase the books, Wilbanks said. Through theprogram, she said she hopes students grow to love reading and that the activityof reading at home as a family will encourage families to “turn off the TV for20 minutes and spend some time reading and talking about the book.”
“We want [students] to lovereading, see how much fun it is, get their family involved,” Wilbanks said.“Really, we want them to see that reading is fun. It’s not just something youdo for school.”
For more information on OneSchool, One Book, visit www.readtothem.org.
BRITNEY TABOR can bereached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.