The HopeSouth Teacher Grant Winner for 2017-2018 is Caitlin King! Ms. King teaches at Westwood Elementary School and was honored to receive $1,750 to launch a literacy-based campaign called One Book, One School.

One Book, One School

The concept of an entire school reading one book together wasn’t new, but it was new to Westwood Elementary. Ms. King wanted to pick a project that would benefit not only her classroom, but the entire school.  Every student, teacher, administrators and even some bus drivers received the book.

The book chosen was The One and Only Ivan, a book about a silverback gorilla living in captivity, the adventures he has as new friends come into his life, and learning to adapt as he faces daily challenges.

Students were challenged with reading a specific number of pages each night, and families were encouraged to get involved. Parents read to children, children to parents, siblings read to each other, and Ms. King even said one second grader practiced reading aloud to his middle school aged brother. Ms. King also invited members of the community to come in and read aloud to classes and lead discussions.

Surprising Wins

Ms. King said she was gratified and surprised when she heard the book being talked about all over the school, between students and teachers, children and adults. In classrooms and hallways, Westwood was abuzz with discussions about animal cruelty, art, the ethical implications of zoos and circuses, and animal welfare. Discussions about what family looks like, love, friendship and courage sprung up in places like the cafeteria and the bus line.

The school used the book as an opportunity to shape curriculum around the story. The art teacher encouraged drawings of animals and concepts like love and family. The school librarian used it as an opportunity to teach some of the older students about non-fiction research into the silverback gorilla.

Though the project wrapped up in the fall, some of the kids still carry the book around, proud to have their very own book that belongs only to them.

When asked about the overall impact of the program, Ms. King said, “I loved hearing the feedback from parents about how some of them chose this as a time to be together as a family…and I’m just thrilled to see families uniting over a good book.”