BLACKFOOT – An exciting new family event was announced Monday afternoon at Ridge Crest Elementary by Doug Bitter, the school's principal. Drawing on his experience from working in Idaho Falls' District 91, where the entire district does an event known as "One District, One Book," he wanted to bring the event to his new school.
The students gathered in the gymnasium at 1 p.m. for an assembly that was more or less a surprise to them. Clues were presented throughout the day, with the first clue being, "Two friends meet a new friend in a big city." The second clue presented around recess being, "One friend becomes a famous musician." The final clue presented was, "The main characters include a great musical cricket, a fast-talking mouse, and a cat." Do the clues pique any interest?
After the clues were presented once more to the students, Bitter asked if anyone would like to take a guess at which book they are going to be reading. Hands shot up in excitement, with aspirations that each and every one of them would be called upon. Bitter asked one student who quickly replied, "Pinocchio!" He then assured the student that it was a great guess, but not quite right, moving on to the next student posing the same query. Which that student quickly blurted out, "The Cricket in Times Square!" Bitter did not confirm or deny this answer, and asked yet another student their opinion, "It has to be Cricket in Times Square," the student explained.
Bitter finally let the cat out of the bag, admitting that the book the students will be reading is Cricket in Times Square. After confirming the students' suspicions, he presented a book trailer for the students to watch, giving them a little background on what the book would be about. Following the trailer, Bitter played yet another book trailer for the students. Children across the gym began bobbing their heads along with the music, with cheers of excitement and whispers between friends.
Following the trailers, Bitter asked, "Who's excited to read this book?" Hands shot up throughout the room in confirmation.
The book is free to the students and their families, including in Spanish for families where English is not the dominant language at home. The book is being sent home with the youngest sibling in the family attending Ridge Crest, with instructions for the required reading for each night, with a calendar and a letter from Bitter. The letter requests that the families enjoy the book together, and will have a comprehension question posed for each section of reading. The students that perform the required reading and comprehension question each day will be asked to present the answer to their teachers, and upon submitting a correct response to the question, will be entered in a daily drawing for each grade level. A winner for each grade will be drawn daily, and the prize will be themed around what the section of reading portrayed.
Bitter presented to the students a hypothetical, where if one student does not do the required reading and asks his or her friend for the answer. He explained that giving them the answer for not doing the reading isn't only cheating, but also directly affects each student's odds for winning that actually read the section assigned.
"What do you do when you get home?" Bitter asked. With a resounding answer from every student in attendance, "Each night we read the assigned reading!"
Bitter's goal, as he explained it, is to create a family fun event brought on by reading the book together.
Adding to the family fun, Ridge Crest will be holding a family reading night on May 9 to celebrate the activity.
The book is considered a fourth-grade reading level, and the students will be allowed to take Accelerated Reader tests upon completion. Furthermore, the students are allowed to count the time spent reading the novel toward their required reading time.
The Cricket in Times Square has been sectioned to create a family reading experience that will span across two weeks, but students are more than welcome to read ahead. For those who fall behind, the school intends to help those students catch back up.
Bitter intends to continue Ridge Crest Reads Together each year, as he has witnessed the positive feedback from other schools and districts that have taken part in similar events. It's time to pick up that book and start turning those pages.