Students working on crafts with teacher

“Family engagement is a top priority for us,” began Jennifer VanZetta, Title I reading teacher at John D. Jenkins Elementary School. With a big smile, she continued, “We are a reasonably new school and we wanted to build literacy in the community.” To accomplish this, Jenkins Elementary turned to One Book, One School.

Principal Xanthe McFadden had experienced One Book, One School (OBOS) as a classroom teacher. While on a smaller scale, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. McFadden thought, “Let’s try to have the whole school read one book, bring in a family to school connection.”

“Stella Diaz Has Something to Say” by Angela Domingues, was voted on by the faculty for its accessibility and representation. The titular character is bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, learns new material in school, tries to make new friends, and struggles with public speaking. Her single mother works to support Stella and her older brother, Nick.

Stella’s life and her conflicts give everyone in the community something to connect with and talk about. Recognizing the importance of this foundation, teachers requested the event earlier in the year so discussions at home and in the classroom would be synonymous.

“I liked the book,” said fourth grader Grace. “I like that Stella was always accomplishing things and she was funny.”

Jenkins held a kick-off event where each household received a copy of the book, and instructions to the multimodal engagement and differentiated activities throughout the month. Videos were posted on Canvas of teachers and staff reading, betta fish travelled from class to class, activities were held in the classrooms, and weekly prizes were given.

“He looks at the [Canvas videos] before he goes to bed,” commented Candice Hopkins, parent of a fifth grader. “I can hear him in there listening to them.” Hopkins laughed, “My favorite part was seeing the teachers [reading] and really surprised that even the principal did it.”

The OSOB finale was an all-encompassing event run by staff members on the Literacy Committee, and attended by community partners Parkway Church, who provided food, and John Marshall Bank, who provided prizes. Kindergarten through fifth grade students and their families travelled through nine different stations around the school, representing various curricular activities connected to the book.

Michelle Moore, second grade teacher, shared, “This year we really want to boost the family engagement as a school. I think it is really bringing all the families together.” Moore kneels to welcome a former familiar face and receives a hug from a grateful parent.

“Our goal is to help families use literacy at home and build their conversations around literacy,” commented VanZetta. “We also want them to see how one story can connect to so many different things that they learn about and experience.”

Pointing to the numerous families traversing hallways, learning in classrooms, and eating in the cafeteria, McFadden asserted, “We want our families and our community as involved in Jenkins as possible. Doing events like this brings in that positive feel and that family culture that we want to have.”

Family and Community engagement strip