Monday, January 9, 2017

OES Reads 2017: The Big Reveal

OES Reads is what we call our whole-school family and community reading initiative. Our program is modeled after the One School, One Book movement. Planning and executing our own program has allowed for dreaming and creativity to be part of the journey towards making bookish memories for our students and their families, and today was no exception.

Today was the day we revealed our book for 2017.

Students started to buzz with interest as soon as they saw the hallway bulletin board change before winter break. When they returned to school in the new year, students listened intently for the daily clues revealed to them about this year's OES Reads author. They started digging in their repertoire of familiar authors and trying to find a match for the clues. Random objects also started to appear on the walls and doors of the school: hydrants, baseballs, squirrels, paws, and dog treats.

Some students made guesses about the author.
                                                Could it be Elly Swartz? She lives in Massachusetts!
                                                                                           It's a dog book. I think it's Maxi's Secrets.

Other students applied heavy pressure to the teachers and other school staff. They really thought they might get someone to slip them a secret.

 It was a good thing we didn't have to wait any longer to let the word out. Today we gathered all 450ish students together in the gym with their teachers and some family members and special guests and participated in our kick-off assembly. We finally got to tell the students that this year, we are reading

Fenway and Hattie, by Victoria Coe!

The assembly included some OES Reads traditions the students have come to expect, like our OES Reads cheer, a skit (that's always good for some giggles) by teacher-actors, and the revealing of the larger-than-life book cover.

This year, we also had some special surprises in store.

One of the teachers four-legged friends strapped on a GoPro camera and toured the school and playground to help us make an introduction video for the book that helped introduce Fenway's point of view, his family, and hinted at a conflict he has in Fenway and Hattie. Nala was a great sport! The students were quick to recognize the Buddy Bench and the fire truck bouncer from the playground. It was entirely worth the work to hear first graders nudge each other and say, "Hey, that's our classroom!" with magic in their voices.

Victoria Coe, the author of Fenway and Hattie, was especially excited and wished she could be there for the assembly. To help introduce herself to OES Read-ers, she sent a video to say hello and book-talk her book. Kids cheered, and Kipper got his own adoring "awwws."

The biggest surprise of all came at the very end of the assembly. Since the paperback copies of Fenway and Hattie just published last week (January 3, 2017), we knew we had to have everything fall into place to have 450 copies ready for today's kick-off. On Friday, we had only received 140 and learned the other books would not arrive on time. To say this snafu was a damper on our energy is an understatement, however we knew that with so many students and families and guests planning for the kick-off this afternoon, the show would have to go on. The script had been written to accommodate for this possibility, even making light of it by having a constructed UPS truck deliver the books to the assembly at the last minute.
The assembly agenda flowed smoothly. We approached the conclusion of the assembly, the assistant principal "drove" the van into the gymnasium heralding "Special Delivery!" in her megaphone, and we all laughed and cheered. But then, I caught a shine in the eye of the secretary who was walking toward me. We stalled on the distribution of books a little, trying to buy a bit of time, because in the hallway, she was helping someone to get a utility cart. And there, through the doorway came another person dressed in brown: the *real* UPS delivery man was carting in the rest of our OES Reads books, right off his truck!

It wasn't our most organized book distribution, but it will easily go down in OES Reads history as the most memorable distribution.

Things settled and quieted in the gym as teachers handed brand-new copies of Fenway and Hattie to the students. Students flipped through pages, pointed out the sketches of Fenway, read the blurb on the back of the book to each other. When we were confident no child had been skipped, our principal began to read Chapter 1 to everyone aloud. Older kids scooted close to younger students, parents pulled kids onto their laps on the floor, and little voices from the first grade class asked, "Did you already turn the page??"

It would have been easy to get swept up in all of it and miss out on noticing the beauty. There were many, many smiling faces, and that perfect sigh of disappointment when the first chapter was over. A good sign that they are happy with their new books.

Over the next five weeks, Fenway and Hattie will have a presence in our school community. With plans for daily trivia, family involvement events, a family literacy night, and Skypes with Victoria Coe, there's a lot more to come. Stay tuned!