Families reading the same book enjoy the unique experience of coming together around a story.
For Administrators

A One School/One Book Project Teaches Families, Children the Value of Reading

By Brian Gatens January 21, 2016

In our screen-filled world of six-second videos and shrinking attention spans, we tend to forget there was a time when the written word bound us together.

Families reading the same book enjoy the unique experience of coming together around a story.But some schools still remember the unique ability of books to unify. They’re launching “one school/one book” reading programs based on a devilishly simple concept: A common book, selected by a group of teachers (sometimes with the help of students and community members), is read collectively by the entire community.

Along the way, families get an opportunity to share a common experience, have great discussions and experience something that would otherwise be unavailable. Here’s why I think all districts should try one school/one book reading programs:

Reading still matters to our culture

Our culture is becoming more and more disposable. A Vine video lasts six seconds. Our Facebook feeds update hundreds of times a day. The next star of the moment flashes brightly but then quickly fades, only to be replaced by the next person in line for their 15 minutes of fame.

Despite all this, the written word still seems to be the most “sticky” for us. The act of reading, taking the time to see each word on the page and then giving it the time to unfold in the reader’s head, is a uniquely precious experience. When we dedicate time and resources to getting an entire school community to read the same book, we reinforce the message that reading is an important and vital activity.

Stories can strengthen families

Families are spending less and less time together. The rise of two-worker homes, incessant use of mobile devices and just being busy forces families to only see each other intermittently. When they do get together, they spend more time focusing on information and tasks than on actually being present with each other.

The shared-book aspect of a one school/one book initiative is as much designed to bring families together as it is for families to read the same book. It creates a common topic that doesn’t have to do with school performance, outside expectations or the next task to be completed. Rather, it’s about families being together and sharing a great story.

Reading sparks big conversations

A good one school/one book initiative isn’t just about the story — it’s about the themes that emerge from the tale. Events in a book open the door for families to talk about bravery, loss, happiness and sadness. With a quality book, readers don’t have to speak about themselves. They can have conversations that help them see themselves through the lens of the book.

Speaking with their children about these big topics gives parents the chance to guide and help without having to look like moms and dads enforcing rules. Sometimes the best lessons are “caught, not taught.”

It’s good old-fashioned fun

And finally, a one school/one book initiative lets a family actually enjoy doing something that they usually experience only as a part of formal schoolwork. Reading for pleasure, losing yourself in the pages of a compelling and worthwhile read, is a vital and necessary feeling for young readers to have.

If you select the right book — one that brings about enjoyment — then the fun related to the reading should flow into the reader’s life. Fun is infectious, and experiencing it through a book creates lasting memories that spark more reading.

Everybody wins

An effective one school/one book initiative lets families enjoy a good story, spend more quality time together, share big lessons and do something as a community. Some communities have done these reading projects across a school district or even an entire town or city.

There’s nothing like uniting around a good book. Every school should give it a try.

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