Saturday, January 10, 2015

OES Reads: Building Excitement for a Whole-School Reading Project

It's *almost* here.
And good thing, because it is becoming harder and harder not to talk about it.

We've been building excitement and anticipation for our whole-school family reading initiative since mid-December. And it's almost time to make the big announcement.

We call our initiative OES Reads. Three years ago, we were trying to find creative ways to connect school and family learning and to bridge the physical separation (upstairs/downstairs) between primary and intermediate classrooms in our building. The result was establishing and organizing the first OES Reads The premise of our program is similar to the well-known One School, One Book project, as we have selected one book that all students, families, and staff (including office personnel, lunchroom workers, custodial staff, and bus drivers) read during the same window of time.

Our first two years were successful, but as with any program, we are always seeking ways to keep involvement and participation high. Choosing a single book (already hard to do!) for the entire PreK through 6th grade population was a challenge. In our third year, we've adjusted course to try something different. We decided to make two book selections by grade-spans (to attend to interest level and hopefully engage more students) by one author!

This shifted our planning a bit. Adding a second book meant doubling the work in the preparation phase. But it also has rounded out the literacy immersion of our project, too. Since the common factor in this year's OES Reads selections is one author, we've found excellent opportunities to incorporate writing into our whole-school project.

Never doubt the value of caution tape to promote curiosity!
Before vacation, we made a bulletin board display. Lots of vague spots made for wonder: a large unknown image to represent the author, a set of "clues," and caution tape. (Aside: If you're looking for a fool-proof way to attract kids' attention, stretch caution tape over what they should notice. Works like a charm!) The visual worked wonderfully at reminding everyone that OES Reads was coming.

This week, everyone returned from vacation to find two new book covers arrived to stand beside the two book covers from the previous two years of OES Reads. Only, these two new covers were draped with black plastic and (again) caution tape. Their very obvious presence reminded students that the big reveal is getting closer. Daily, a new clue about the author was revealed on the bulletin board and shared as a morning announcement. Students started having conversations about authors they know and if any of those authors could fit the clues. Then, on Thursday, the unthinkable happened... The office interrupted our classrooms to announce that the book covers had gone missing! Suddenly, the students were in motion, abuzz with suspects and possible motives, trying to solve this evident problem. Our literacy coach shared the story of students she had seen working in the hall who had to be stopped from tearing off to the cafeteria to see. My students rallied, one girl going home to interrogate her mother, who spends a lot of time in our school as a PTA volunteer. As of Friday afternoon, the covers had not been returned, and sadly, in their place were only tape-outlines (think body-outlines) on the wall of the stage where they had been.

Though we've made changes to include two books by one author this year, one thing has not changed: curiosity. In fact, it may be in part because students and families have come to anticipate OES Reads each year. But the students' and families' curiosity and excitement continue to build and they are already invested in OES Reads, as evidenced this week. There were conversations about OES Reads, the mystery author, and the book covers happening all over the school. Second graders questioned me about the missing books on my lunch duty. Former students, fifth graders, checked in with me daily about the author clues and how they were whittling it down. "I'm determined to figure this out before Monday!" he resolved. (Actually, they had impressively figured it out on Wednesday's clue, but I didn't confirm or deny it!) Parents asked about how much longer they had to wait and verified the assembly time when picking up students from their after-school clubs. Kids and parents are talking. Everyone is awaiting the big reveal. 

But that doesn't happen until Monday.

On Monday, the whole-school and friends and family will get together for the OES Reads Kick-off Assembly. The teachers will act a little silly, the kids will get a little loud, and the author and book covers will be revealed. A new book will be presented to EVERY student. And then--together--we'll read.

And then I'll (finally!) be able to say more.

Use this link to read the next post in this blog series: The Big Reveal.


  1. I can't wait to see how this plays out! What a wonderful way to promote literacy in your school. I'll be following!

    1. Thank you for your feedback! It's always nice to know someone is reading. More to come...VERY soon.