Friday, December 18, 2015

One Book, One School

Meadow Wood Elementary Librarian Karyn Lewis with the children's book The One and Only Ivan
Meadow Wood Elementary students and parents were never at a loss for a shared discussion topic this fall. Every student from kindergarten up to fifth grade at this elementary campus on Memorial Drive read the same children’s book.

School librarian Karyn Lewis created the One Book One School program, which first won Meadow Wood administrative and teaching staff support. With funding from a successful book fair, every student received a copy of the children’s book, The One and Only Ivan.

The children’s book is written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao. It describes the life of a gorilla named Ivan who lives in a cage at the mall. Published in 2011, the novel won a high-level John Newbery Award.

The much loved, fictional work was inspired by a real-life gorilla who lived in a mall in Tacoma, Wash. The school-wide reading campaign closed in November with a variety of celebrations, including Skype student sessions with a Houston Zoo gorilla keeper.

Parents learned about the single focus reading event at Curriculum Night, Lewis said. Students were elated when they received illustrated books, theirs to keep.

Lewis recalls, “Several of them asked me repeatedly, ‘Can I keep this book?’ And when I said, ‘Yes, it’s yours to read as many times as you want!’ many of them squealed and hugged me, or said, ‘Really?! Thank you!’”

Students were assigned chapters on a schedule. Many Meadow Wood families made reading the book a regular, shared activity. Family reading grew.

Parents “loved how it allowed them to talk to children over a shared experience,” librarian Lewis said. Students were concerned for Ivan the gorilla and his friends as they became immersed inside the lengthy chapters.

The librarian used social media like Twitter and other communications pathways to support student, family and school community interest and discussion.

“I have loved seeing students carrying The One and Only Ivan book around with them, or seeing it on their book stack on their desk, or in their book box,” Lewis also said.

“Our students have now had a shared book experience and it has helped them find a connection with one another as well. Teachers said it was a topic of conversation in their [student/classroom] community circles and at the lunch table. We all loved Ivan and Ruby!”

“The whole school tells you about this one book. I liked reading it,” said Meadow Wood student Elyse Carlson. “Everyone likes to talk about their own favorite part of the book.”

“It’s been a good opportunity to read one book and to be together,” said Meadow Wood parent Judith Sakolosky during the book reading campaign period. “All of our neighbors are talking about the book. It’s nice for the families to get together for 20 or 30 minutes, too.”

This book campaign is over, but librarian Lewis reports that families have asked about the next book. She is hoping that the upcoming book fair will fund the next, big shared reading campaign.


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