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'One Book, One School' debuts in city

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Martinsville City Public Schools has revamped its summer reading program to help build enjoyment in reading and a culture of reading, to involve more students and to help prevent summer learning loss, division officials said.

In the new program — called One Book, One School — students from each school will read the same book.

Free books have been or are being distributed to all students. Students and families are encouraged to read and discuss books together at home, and to come to events called “summer book sharing” at school media centers.

Also, brochures have been distributed to parents, giving tips and suggested activities for building students’ reading skills, such as comprehension.

“Summer book sharing” events will be held at Albert Harris Elementary, Patrick Henry Elementary, Martinsville Middle and Martinsville High schools from 10-11 a.m. June 3, 10 and 17 and July 8 and 15 and from 6-7 p.m. June 24 and July 22. Parents of K-5 children participating must attend the evening sessions. Snacks will be provided.

Every faculty member also received a book, said Angilee Downing, MCPS assistant superintendent of instruction.

“We’re excited about it,” Downing said of the reading program.

“The number of hours a child spends reading for pleasure is a greater indicator of a student’s performance than either degree attainment (of parents) or socioeconomic levels (of families),” she said. “It helps in vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking.”

“We want this to be fun for students and families,” Downing said.

Pam Mason, MCPS coordinator of reading and media services, said the program is recommended but not required, no tests will be given, and students will not be assigned to read a certain number of chapters or pages per week. Participants at book sharing events will engage in paired readings, character discussions, read alouds and hands-on literacy activities, according to Mason and a brochure.

The elementary school-level book is “The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester” by Barbara O’Connor. The author’s website says: “An amazing secret has tumbled off a freight train into Carter, Georgia, and Owen Jester is the only person who knows about it. If he can simply manage to evade his grandfather’s snappish housekeeper, organize his two best friends, and keep his nosy neighbor, Viola, at bay, he just might be in for a summer of a lifetime.”

The middle school-level book is “Belly Up” by Stuart Gibbs. The author’s website says: “Henry the Hippo, the beloved mascot of FunJungle, America’s hottest new tourist attraction, is dead. Twelve-year-old Teddy Fitzroy suspects foul play, but when no one believes him, he decides to investigate himself. To his surprise, he discovers that plenty of people wanted Henry gone — and the list of suspects keeps growing. As Teddy searches through the clues and asks too many questions, it becomes clear that he too might end up belly up.”

The high school-level book is “The Paladin Prophecy” by Mark Frost. The Random House website says: “Will West has always been told to live under the radar, to get mediocre grades, and to stay in the middle of the pack on his cross-country team even though he is anything but average. Then his family is suddenly attacked by mysterious men in black cars, and he has no choice but to flee to The Center, an exclusive school that had been courting him and his ‘hidden’ talents. There, he finds that he’s able to accomplish physical and mental feats that should be impossible, and learns that his abilities are actually connected to an epic struggle between titanic forces that has lasted for a millennia.”

Extra books are on hand in case some students lose theirs, Mason said.

Downing said programs like One Book, One School have been around a while and have been successful.

She said the books used in the summer reading program also will be used in the school division’s summer skills focus academies (learning sessions that focus on skills). Also, each school is planning an evening back-to-school celebration built around its book. Once school resumes, after-school activities will be held for students who did not finish reading their book during the summer, and the books will be used in English classes when students learn about such things as conflict, plot and building character, Downing said.

According to a brochure about MCPS’ summer reading program, research has shown that during summer months:

• “All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities....”

• “Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills.... Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.”

• Unequal access to summer learning opportunities accounts for more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth. Thus low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

According to the Virginia Department of Education report card for 2013-14 for MCPS (based on Standards of Learning tests administered in 2012-13), 50 percent of all MCPS third-graders who were tested passed the English: reading SOL test, 50 percent of all fourth-graders tested, 55 percent of all fifth-graders tested, 62 percent of all sixth-graders tested, 62 percent of all seventh-graders tested, 54 percent of all eighth-graders tested, and 79 percent of all high school students tested. All those passing rates were lower than state averages, according to the report card.


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