Earlier this year, Ralston students went on an adventure with 12 penguins and a man determined to showcase their talents across the country.
In November, each family at Karen Western Elementary received a copy of the children’s book “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater as part of the One Book, One School program.
The program, aimed to excite students about the wonders of reading as well as encourage family bonding, served as a way to work toward the school’s reading improvement goal, said Andrew Mather, school principal.
“We were trying to find ideas to connect school and home that focused on the goal in both places and bring it alive with the families,” he said.
Each week, students in every grade level were encouraged to read certain chapters with their families.
Students were also given activity pages to complete after reading to not only build vocabulary and help with comprehension skills, but to create memories with those around them, Mather said.
“I think it did a really nice job of connecting families back to something we were doing at school,” he said.
Teachers in each grade level also helped move the story along by implementing reading time during the school day.
Students finished the book in February and celebrated with a viewing of the movie rendition of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” at the school surrounded by family and friends.
After the program, students were able to keep their books, which Mather said was a special treat.
“A lot of kids talk about not having books at home or not having the opportunity to read a lot,” he said. “I think it was cool for them to not only get a book but a brand new one out of the box.”
Throughout the reading process, parents and students expressed their gratitude for the program, Mather said.
With such a positive response, he said, the school plans to take part in One Book, One School for years to come.
Aside from advancing their reading skills, Mather said, he wants students to engage with their families.
“For me, the biggest thing is that they see that reading is enjoyable,” he said.
“Reading can be a good family-bonding time.”