Taking a stand to build community of readers

GREENFIELD — Fifth-grader Julie Nicklin is looking forward to a month full of reading alongside her entire school.

She’s an avid bookworm and usually finishes books pretty quickly. But this month, she and about 730 others at Mt. Comfort Elementary School will be reading the same book at once as one of seven schools in the state participating in the “One School, One Book” program. As part of the initiative, everyone at the elementary school, including bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers, will read the same book this month.

On Friday afternoon, staffers kicked off the program by unveiling “The Lemonade War” as this year’s book. The book is about a brother and sister who launch a war to see who can sell the most lemonade in the last days of summer.

It’s the third year the school has participated in “One School, One Book,” which encourages reading around the community. When the entire school reads one book, there’s a lot of excitement and buzz for reading, said Principal Heather Whitaker.

Families are encouraged to read the book together and to talk about it at home. Older siblings may read to their younger brothers and sisters, mom or dad can read the story aloud, or the student can read the book to the whole family. The schedule, set by organizers, allows for about 15 minutes of reading each night. Students then return to their classrooms for discussions about what they’ve read.

Julie suspects she’ll read ahead in the book because she won’t be able to put it down, but she plans to review each of the day’s assigned chapters to be ready for class.

At school, conversations about the reading float beyond the classrooms and through the whole building, said cafeteria manager Janet Nylund.

When the kids are waiting in line for their lunch, they want to talk about what they’re reading, she said. There’s often not a lot of time for conversations with lunchroom staff as students move through the line quickly, but employees look forward to the program year after year, Nylund said.

Donna Dillon, the school’s head custodian, said students’ eyes light up when they realize the grownups at school are reading the same book as them.

“They’re so excited,” she said. “I think they look forward to it more than we do.”

The school ordered 735 books through a grant from the Mt. Vernon Education Foundation. Students will have the chance to earn prizes throughout the month when they answer trivia questions about “The Lemonade War.”

On Fridays, students can buy lemonade during lunch for 50 cents, profits of which will be donated to Riley Hospital for Children.

Fifth-grade teacher Lauren Bailey, who helped organize the program, hopes it encourages students to enjoy reading and brings families together.

“We want to build a community of readers,” she said.

Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.