Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant

Unlikely friendships was the theme this year in the One School, One Book reading program revealed in early March, when students learned the title of the book they have spent the month reading. Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 9.08.49 AM (1)

Approximately 400 kindergarten through fourth-grade students at Northfield Elementary School each received a copy of “Gooseberry Park” by Cynthia Rylant at an assembly March 5.

“We have fun things that go on during assembly, and the book is revealed on screen,” said teacher Lisa Bass. “As the children leave, they receive a copy of the book and a home packet. Activities begin that night.”

The assembly committee asked students if they had picked up on clues scattered around the school like displays of trees, acorns and a dog house. The music of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” played as the students entered the gymnasium and a slide show paired unlikely animals as friends.

Although clues were placed throughout the building about the book, teachers were careful not to reveal the title before the big reveal, Bass said.

“It’s very hush hush,” she said.

First grader Sedinam Vittor said she saw the acorns and trees but didn’t know about the dog.

“I saw the dog house but didn’t know it was about the book,” Sedinam said.

Fourth grader Alex Malafarina has read previous books through the program and has won a pig eraser, water bottle and finger puppets.

“We get to read two chapters tonight and do easy trivia questions,” Alex said after getting her copy.

Along with the book, students received a take-home packet with a reading calendar, trivia questions, a flat character, crossword puzzles, word searches and fun comprehensive activities.

Some of the items include vocabulary words, animal facts about each of the animal characters which include Kona a Labrador retriever, Stumpy a squirrel, Murray a bat and Gwendoyn a hermit crab. Students can write poems about the characters and learn to draw them.

“Reading aloud at home is valuable because it better prepares your child to be an effective reader, and it is also a fun, worthwhile family activity,” according to the Northfield Elementary staff in the letter home.

The program involves the entire school body, staff and community in reading one book at the same time, Bass said.

“This is the fourth year doing this,” Bass said. “The entire school reads the book with their family. Every family gets involved at their own capacity.”

The staff puts together a reading calendar for the students to read one or two chapters a night through March 29, Bass said. Students answer matching comprehensive trivia questions and turn them in the next day.

From Chapters 1 and 2, the trivia questions were “Who is about to become a mother?” and “What are Kona’s favorite animals?” If students answer the trivia questions correctly they are entered into a drawing.

“We have a prize committee that picks a winner from each class from the correct answers,” Bass said. “We try to have as many children as possible win prizes.”

In addition to prizes for correct trivia questions, there is a grand prize at the end of the program, she said.

The school with the support of the PTA has raised money for prizes from different events and they have asked for donations or gift cards from business partners, Bass said.

“It’s grown so big,” Bass said. “We decorate the entire school in the theme of the book.”

A Twitter account allowed readers to tweet out fun things about the book during the program, Bass said.

Businesses and organizations that supported the program include Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Great Clips, Pulp, Sky Zone, The Nailtique, Cinamark at Macedonia, Costco, Fun-n-Stuff, KFC, Pepper’s Fresh Market, The Goddard School in Macedonia, Northbrooke Tile Co., Westerman Group, William Davidson, DDS & Assoc., Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Home Depot in Macedonia and Fairlawn, and athletic events at Nordonia Middle School and Nordonia High School.

A couple of years ago the main character was Humphrey Hamster and a live hamster was kept in the school library, Bass said.

“Kids could visit him on their library days,” Bass said. “At the end of the program, a child won Humphrey, with the parents approval.”

To make the program a success, work begins in September with several committees working on each aspect of the program. The hardest part is keeping the book a secret until the open assembly when it is revealed.

Every single person in the entire building was involved in so many ways, Bass said. Co-teachers, administration, parents, the Northfield Elementary PTA, Northfield Schools Foundation, teachers, office, public library and many others in the community.

Closing assembly on March 29 will have lots of fun activities and grand prizes awarded, she said. As students leave assembly they all receive a secret surprise.

“And they keep their books forever,” Bass said. “It’s truly magical.”

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