One Book, One School unites community

Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Kenyon Vincent reads chapter 10 of "Charlotte's Web" to his daughters, Sophia, 4, left, Chloe, 6, and 6-month-old Amelia and wife, Brittney, at the family's home in Jasper on Monday evening. Chloe, a first-grader at Ireland Elementary, has enjoyed being able to discuss the book with her entire school, including her school bus driver.


IRELAND — Ireland Elementary is saying, “Salutations,” to the school year with a reading initiative that has the entire community involved.

The school is participating in One Book, One School, an initiative by Richmond, Virginia, based Read to Them, a nonprofit with the mission of creating a culture of literacy in every home. Through the project, every student, staff member and family at Ireland Elementary is reading “Charlotte’s Web,” the classic book by E.B. White that stars a pig named Wilbur and his best friend Charlotte, a spider that greets Wilbur with “Salutations!”

The initiative reaches outside the school, too. Businesses around the community have trivia questions about the book that they can use when students visit, and most of the reading is done at home with families.

“We’re really trying to get the community involved,” said Ireland Principal Shannon Bauer. “Go home, be a kid and read with your family.”

For the Vincent family, “Charlotte’s Web” has become part of every evening. Brittney and Kenyon Vincent’s oldest daughter, Chloe, is a first-grader at Ireland Elementary, so every evening Kenyon or Brittney sits down to read with her. The couple’s other two daughters, 4-year-old Sophia and 6-month-old Amelia are never far away. They’re about halfway through the book, and Chloe’s favorite part so far is when Wilbur grows into a fat pig.

Each day at school involves some activity related to “Charlotte’s Web.” To teach the kids to work for their money, the school partnered with Kimball Electronics Gives 2019 Making A Difference Awards Program.

To raise money, the kids are participating in Chores for Charity. The program connects to the book through Fern, the main human character, who does chores around the farm. Like Fern, the students complete chores around their homes to earn coins. Back at school, the students drop those coins in buckets labeled with staff members’ names. At the end of One Book, One School, the staff members whose buckets raised the most money will have to kiss a pig during a schoolwide convocation. That’s scheduled to happen on Sept. 27.

The book also reaches into students’ lunch period. Every day as the kids finish up eating, they’re asked a couple trivia questions about the chapters they read the day before.

When instructional assistant Tori Testerman asked the questions to the kindergarten, first- and second-graders on Monday, a flurry of hands flew into the air. Testerman said the kids usually know the answer, and it’s fun to see them whisper to their friends to see who remembers what.

It’s not uncommon for students to chat about the book in the halls, and Testerman said teachers often try to get a few pages read on their breaks. Even the kids who usually don’t like to read are excited about “Charlotte’s Web.”

“It’s brought us closer, in a way,” Testerman said. “Since everyone is doing it, the kids get excited about it.”

That’s the whole point of One Book, One School — getting everyone excited about literacy.

“Maybe we’re making a connection that wasn’t there before,” Bauer said. “It’s about community involvement. We’re bringing people together, and it’s all around becoming a good reader.”

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