Nov. 24, 2020 --
Leaders at Roxboro Elementary were not about to let something like a global pandemic prevent them from participating in One School One Book for the fourth year running. The annual project
involves every child in the building receiving and reading the same novel over a three-week period. It usually kicks off with a school-wide assembly after which students find their own copy of the chosen book on their desks.
This year, things obviously had to be different. According to PTA member Mary Pat Jolivette, the OSOB team had already signed up and selected their book title before knowing that the district would still be in remote learning in November. “We tried to retrofit it to fit the situation,” she said.
RoxEl alumnus Henry Dew, now an 8th grader at Roxboro Middle, and his film production company Unprofessional Films, helped kick off OSOB with that previewed some of the themes of the book and revealed the book itself. He attached a GoPro to the head of his cousin Brendan West who skateboarded onto the school playground and met a dog with a note attached to its collar inviting Brendan to the Principal’s Office. The 4th grader then skateboarded through the school building, a delight for students who miss their hallways and cafeteria. When he met Principal Shelly Pulling outside the office, she handed him a Book Buck for the school’s book vending machine. And what should fall out of the machine but the chosen book, Dog Days by Karen English?
As the entire school watched this video during their virtual morning announcements, each student then unwrapped the package that their parents had picked up in the weeks prior to reveal their own copy of the very same book. One School One Book, coronavirus edition, had begun.
The packet that the OSOB team had compiled included other materials as well, such as a Bingo board of activity options and materials for each student to craft their own mini skateboard. The packets were available for pickup at the school on multiple occasions or were dropped at the homes of individual students.
The book, the first of The Carver Chronicles series, follow a young boy who sneaks into his sister’s room and accidentally breaks something that belongs to her. In order to make the money to replace her treasured item, Gavin is forced to walk his aunt’s embarrassingly dainty dog, all while fending off a bully at his new school. The themes of finding private space within one’s home and of taking personal responsibility and respecting other people’s space and belongings seem to hit close to home for children who are stuck indoors with their siblings all day.
“Plus, so many people have gotten pandemic pets,” said Ms. Jolivette. Several of the Bingo activities revolve around taking care of, and even researching, animals. The committee, comprised of parents Ms. Jolivette and Clare Taft, Principal Pulling and teachers Candace Summers, Liz McKinley, and Monica Rogers, brainstormed activities that were both no cost and safe during a pandemic. Students were encouraged to take a walk in a park, visit a Little Free Library or read aloud to a parent or grandparent via video screen.
Families have been sharing photos on the school’s social media pages, which help everyone feel connected. “Usually we do so much stuff together that the kids feel like they’re enveloped in the experience,” said Ms. Jolivette. This year is obviously different. But with teachers planning at-home family activities for Literacy Night and delivering gifts and prizes to students’ doorsteps, RoxEl has certainly made the best of it.
“I really hope this will come at a time when people are starting to feel the lull of online learning,” said Ms. Jolivette of the reminder of what it feels like to really be a part of a community doing something special together.