Program brings West Point students together through reading

Sarah Fearing
Contact Reportersfearing@tidewaterreview.com

WEST POINT — The excitement in the auditorium was palpable as West Point Elementary School students readied to hear what book they will be reading this month.

When high school chorus teacher Melody Raef announced the book's title "The Trumpet of the Swan" by E.B. White, the students cheered and looked at each other with curiosity.

To add to the excitement of the big reveal, three teachers participated in a 1970-themed trivia game show in the auditorium. Fourth-grade teacher Janet Chirgotis, fifth-grade teacher Mary Foster and third-grade teacher Jennifer Blamy answered questions about popular cereals and costs of goods in 1970, the year "Trumpet of the Swan" was published.

Each West Point Elementary School student will read the book as part of One School One Book, a program created by Richmond-based nonprofit Read to Them. The program aims to bring a school's students and families together by all reading one book on the same schedule.

Read to Them offers over 50 books for the One School One Book program. The books span different reading levels and are offered to participating schools at a discounted price, according to Katherine J. Upshaw, Title 1 teacher at the elementary school.

West Point Superintendent Laura Abel said the goal of One School One Book is to get families and the community involved with students' reading. Parents are encouraged to read with their children, and the school has invited West Point town employees to participate in the reading program.

This is the second year West Point Elementary has participated in the program. Last year, the school read "The World According to Humphrey," by Betty G. Birney.

"It was a big hit with families and children," Upshaw said. "This year, our book is a classic, so it will be a different experience."

Raef also told the kids to "go into it with a cool attitude" because the book is a classic and is different than some other newer books.

Although Read to Them provides the books at a discounted price, books for 322 students can be costly. According to Upshaw, the parent-teacher organization provides funds for the program, families pay a fee if they are able to, and some families donate extra money to help support the program.

The note home to parents requests $5 to cover the costs of books, then the parents have the option of donating another $5 for an additional book. The PTO donated about $500 last year to help pay for activities on family reading nights.

Students will read three to four chapters per week and will complete trivia activities during the school day.

"Teachers can reread, review, and discuss the book in class, keeping students interested and eager for more reading," Upshaw said.

On March 8, the elementary school will hold an open house from 6-7:30 p.m. to celebrate the completion of the book.

For more information, visit readtothem.org.

Fearing can be reached by phone at 804-885-0042.

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