Over the next month, students at four elementary schools in the Appoquinimink School District will be reading “The Lemonade War” as part of the One School, One Book program, the latest in a growing array of communal reading experiences offered by the district.
Over the course of a week, new items mysteriously began showing up in Brick Mill Elementary School's lobby showcase.
First it was pitchers and cups. The next day it was lemons, followed by coins, photographs of siblings and lemonade mix.
Finally, students were asked to wear yellow to school on Monday for the official unveiling of Brick Mill's 2014 One School, One Book selection.
During a school-wide assembly, Principal Rebecca Feathers and Assistant Principal Roberta Jacobs donned lemon costumes as they and the school's mascot Bricky the Dolphin performed skits, led students in song and asked them to solve math problems that eventually revealed "The Lemonade War" by Jacqueline Davies as this year's book.
"Our goal was to build a sense of excitement among our students and get them focused on the shared reading experience that this program is really all about," Jacobs explained.
Brick Mill is one of four elementary schools in the Appoquinimink School District that will be reading "The Lemonade War" during their respective One School, One Book programs over the next month.
The story follows fourth-grader Evan Treski and his younger sister Jessie, whose epic tale of a sibling rivalry over who can sell the most lemonade includes introductions to business and marketing, math problems and a lesson in how arguments can get out of hand.
Each night, students at each school will be given a certain number of pages to read at home with their families. The following day, they'll be asked trivia questions about the assigned reading, with correct answers making them eligible for awards and prizes.
The month-long programs at Brick Mill, Bunker Hill, Cedar Lane and Silver Lake elementary schools will culminate on Feb. 27 with some school visits by the author, whose four-part Lemonade War series has been nominated for numerous awards since the first book was published in 2007.
Now in its third year, One School, One Book – originally created by the national cultural literacy nonprofit Read to Them – is part of a growing array of district programs designed to encourage students of all ages to read for fun at home, according to Deborah Panchisin, the district's curriculum director for kindergarten through fifth grade.
"It is important for students to see that we don't just read in school," she said. "Reading is a lifelong activity that we do to learn new information and gain understanding, as well as for pleasure. When students are reading with their parents, the natural discussion that happens is a real world application of why we learn to read."
The district's focus on reading will continue at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 when Alfred G. Waters Middle School hosts the sixth-annual Real Men Read night.
More than 1,000 students from kindergarten to high school will be joined by an adult male role model at the free event, which this year will feature a keynote address by Jack Gantos, a two-time Newberry Award winner and the author of popular children's books, such as "Rotten Ralph Rotten Readers", the Joey Pigza series, the Jack Henry series and the award-winning memoir "A Hole in My Life."
"The original intent of Real Men Read was to combat the loss of male readers that research shows typically occurs around the time they reach middle-school age by showing boys of all ages that reading will be an integral part of whatever path in life they choose," said founder Christine Payne, a librarian at Appoquinimink High School. "It's grown into a major event that includes talks by several authors on a host of high-interest topics and, for me, it's just a lot of fun to see all these boys with their dads, uncles and grandfathers socializing together over the topic of reading."
Additional reading-focused events also are planned at most district elementary schools around the 17th annual Read Across America on March 2.
Over the summer, students in the district's middle and high schools also will participate in a long-standing program similar to One School, One Book, in which all students, faculty and staff read one book chosen by each school.
"If selected carefully, the themes in the books read by all students at a given school can be used to broaden their awareness and perspectives, while also helping to create a unique school culture," said Lara Crowley, a district reading specialist. "While students are not in the same grade level, and therefore have different reading abilities, those common themes can be accessed by all students through a shared experience."
At Brick Mill, fifth-grader Jada Seals says she loves sharing the reading experience with all her schoolmates, almost as much as she enjoys the books themselves.
"It's fun to talk about the stories with your friends and try to answer the trivia questions," she said of the One School, One Book program. "I'm definitely looking forward to reading 'The Lemonade War' because I want to find out what all the clues meant and whether the brother or the sister will end up winning. The end of the story is always my favorite part."