The anticipation was heavy Thursday morning, Feb. 15, in the Redding Elementary School gym as about 500 children tried to guess the title of this year’s selection for the One Book, One School event.
Rocky the Raccoon — Redding Elementary School’s mascot — was up on stage, doing a little dance with Principal Natalie Hammond, to build excitement about the book.
“Wait for it, wait for it,” said fourth grade teacher Brian Dayton, before revealing the title: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.
All at once, the crowd — made up of children in pre-K to fourth grade — erupted in yells and shouts.
The book, a winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, was selected by Redding Elementary School staff. The illustrated novel is about a captive gorilla named Ivan and is told from the gorilla’s point of view.
One Book, One School (OBOS) is a school-wide event whose purpose is to foster family literacy. All the children, teaching staff and families at Redding Elementary School read the same book.
Everyone received a copy of the book to take home. Families are asked to read and discuss the book during the months of February and March.
Children also received a calendar filled with activities and questions pertaining to the book.
One question is, Unlike people, gorillas don’t name their babies right away. Why are gorilla names so important?
On another day, children are asked to learn about Bridgeport’s P.T. Barnum, who founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The calendar suggests that families visit the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport.
In addition, Redding Elementary School is including daily trivia relating to the book on all morning announcements, as well as in-class activities.
Cathy Grimes, literacy specialist at Redding Elementary School, said One Book, One School has been an annual event for six years. Previous books include Humphrey, Trumpet of the Swan, The Secret Garden, Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, and Boxes for Katje.
At the One Book, One School event kickoff, children went up on stage and participated in interactive games pertaining to this year’s book.
One game was called book band. Children were divided into teams and given a headband to wear. A card placed on the headband contained the name of a book title. They had to guess the title based on clues they were given.
Dayton told the children they are lucky to have books so accessible to them.
“In our lives, we are so fortunate — especially here in our library, in your classroom library and in the libraries that you have at home — and we know the power of books,” he said. “Books transport us. They give us hope. They provide us with fantasies. They take us to magical places. They allow us to learn and grow.”
“Open the book, let those pages transport you,” Dayton said. “We are hoping those pages will move you and fill you with love and kindness.”