One School, One Book program intended to engage youth in reading

NILES — Students at Howard-Ellis Elementary School have recently begun embarking on a new journey with a lovable and adventurous cricket, through the book “The Cricket in Times Square.”

The book was written by George Selden and is among the books utilized for the One School, One Book program. Principal of Howard-Ellis, Michelle Asmus said with all kindergarten and fifth grade students now under the same roof, following the completion of bond construction on their new building, she felt it would be good time to kick-start the program at the school. 

As part of the program, students received a copy of the book. Every night, parents are asked to spend between 10 to 15 minutes reading the book with their children.

“The goal is for families to be reading together,” Asmus said. “It has been exciting to hear the kids come in off the bus and talk about the book.”

Asmus said school administrators liked the theme and message of the “The Cricket in Times Square.” The 15-chapter book follows the life of Chester the Cricket, who is taken from his meadow home in Connecticut when he jumps into a picnic basket and ends up in New York City. While being in the big city is a change, Chester adapts and makes new friends who accompany him on adventures.

Asmus said the book is about trying new things, making friends from all walks of life and learning to embrace new circumstances.

In addition to spend time reading with their parents, children participate in daily activities meant to further engage them in the story, including coloring projects and summarizing what they read the night before.

Since starting the program on March 9, Asmus said she will often visit with children in the lunchroom and ask who has been reading.

“Most of them are raising their hands,” Asmus said. “Our hopes are to start talking more to children about books and help them become interested in this author. We also want to create an exciting and memorable experience around literature.”

Niles Community School Superintendent Dan Applegate has also been engaged in the project and has visited the school to read a chapter from the book to classrooms.   

Additionally, Asmus said she thinks the program is important because it helps to show adults as reading role models, who take the time every day to read.

Asmus said funding for the program was covered by Title One Parental Involvement funds, which paid for books, posters and materials used for the activities.

The program is expected to wrap on March 29, when children will have one final surprise activity that will tie the story’s message together.

Asmus plans to bring the program back next year, when children will embark on a new adventure through a new book.

“That desire to be a lifelong reader is what we are hoping for and to find that certain book that interests you and you become hooked,” Asmus said.

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