Here I am again! I have been reading middle grade and YA fiction like crazy and have some to share soon. But right now, my life is overtaken by my son’s school’s Read Across America event. This is my second year to help with it, and while it can be stressful to organize, I’m proud we put on an event that’s both fun and worthwhile for the kids.
Here are the touchstones of our celebration at Holcomb Elementary in Fayetteville, Arkansas:
- New books–Each child goes home with a brand new book to add to his/her home library. These books were selected from Scholastic’s excellent $1 book choices, and we get one title per grade level, K-4. We know that the more books a child has in his home, the better he tends to do in school and the longer he will stay in school. Home libraries have significant impact!
- Book Exchange, or BOSS (Books Off Someone’s Shelf)–I love that the children get a brand new book, but they don’t get to choose the title they receive. Having a book exchange allows the kids the power of choice, which translates to motivation! Our book exchange is very simple–bring a book, take a book. We have a used bookstore in the area where teachers can get books for 50 cents each. This year we had the money to buy 500 used books. I selected each title based on what I think the kids will be most excited about and interested in. Having this many books to start with helps pad the choices for the kids when, inevitably, many bring baby books from home that are no longer being read. It also allows us room to make sure every child goes home with at least one gently used book, even if he/she forgot to bring a book or had none to bring from home.
- Guest readers–Bringing in college education majors from our local university and other special community members to read for our classes models lifelong, fluent adult readers. We want to bring in people who are excited about books and reading and can make a positive impact on the students’ view of reading.
- Entertainment–You need entertainment for a special day at school, of course! Ours happens to be a band of 3 cool guy teachers from the nearby middle school (including my talented husband). These guys know kids and they know books, so it works. Last year, they rewrote lyrics to some popular songs to make them about reading and books. We are lucky to have these guys! And we’re lucky that their administrators support them coming over to do this for us.
- Little Free Library–Technically, this was part of last year’s celebration, but I want to throw it in. We got a LFL in front of the school last year, and it’s a great place to encourage kids to continue “book exchange” as a year-round thing!
So that’s it–every child goes home with at least two books and some extra excitement and motivation for reading. I’m so thankful to be part of a school community that values literacy as so highly. Read on, families!