Creating a greater sense of unity is often difficult to achieve in a larger school, but that was the mission of Minnehaha Elementary’s school-wide reading project: One School, One Book. Organized by Teacher Librarians, Amanda Clow and Kelsey Andrewjeski, the entire school participated in reading the same book, Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate. Through a Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) Engagement Grant, 560 students along with all staff members received a copy of the book. Students also participated in assemblies and cross-grade level activities relating to the story and themes in the book.
The excitement on the students’ faces was apparent when they found out they were each receiving a copy of the book.
Wishtree was selected for its themes of compassion, inclusion, and empathy – messages that all students in Kindergarten through 5th grade can relate to. Building on the story of friendship and acceptance of all people, lessons about honoring and respecting differences happened throughout all the classrooms. Teachers also brought different grade levels together to complete projects, creating a greater sense of unity within the school. School specialists got involved as well, assisting English Language Learners and students in the Learning Assistance Program connect vocabulary to the book. The school’s dance teacher even helped students create collaborative dances.
After reading the book, students shared their own messages of inclusiveness and acceptance in our community and made a wish. While some students’ wishes were fanciful, one boy wishing for “one trillion puppies,” many had positive wishes of happiness and well-being for themselves, their friends, and families. One third-grader stated, “My wish is to have wisdom, because some people make wrong mistakes, and I want to make sure I do right mistakes.”
Andrewjeski reflects on the book’s theme of hope, saying, “Hope is important to have, because what would our world be like without hope for things to get better, hope for people to be better, and hope for wishes to come true?” As a culminating event, the school held a “Wish Day” celebration, which was incorporated into their annual family literacy night. Over 300 people attended the event – far surpassing previous years.
Beyond the reading skills that were developed, the act of the whole community reading the same book made for a powerful and engaging experience that helped to create a renewed sense of community. Throughout the school, students had opportunities to collaborate and create with one another; making connections to literature, and to each other.
About Foundation for VPS Engagement Grants:
The Foundation for VPS provides opportunities so all students have opportunities that spark their interests, connect them to their passion and help them envision and plan for their future success in college, career and life. During 2018-19, the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools invested over $100,000 to fund 52 unique enrichment activities, which benefited over 13,000 students at 31 VPS schools. Learn about other grants awarded by the Foundation for VPS: 2018-19 Engagement Grants.