One School, One Book
One Unforgettable Community Experience
Every student, teacher, parent, caregiver, bus driver, custodian, administrator, and member of your school community agrees to read the same book at the same time. The book inspires projects that adorn the halls of the school and activities that foster community. Then after everyone has finished the book, the author comes to visit to be a part of a community-wide book celebration.The author gives presentations, signs books, takes photos with students, and answers questions.
Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, it is!
Authors from The Author Village love visiting schools and districts that coordinate One School, One Book (OSOB) programs. Elana K. Arnold (A Boy Called Bat) and Angela Dominguez (Stella Díaz Has Something To Say) have had many OSOB experiences, and they’ve been kind enough to answer some common questions about these programs with the hope of providing the inspiration and resources you need to organize a OSOB program in your community.
Before anything, some background:
How Does One Start a OSOB Program?
First, you have to choose a book! Of course, we recommend choosing a book by Elana K. Arnold, Angela Dominguez, or another author with The Author Village. No matter what title you choose, you can always find free, book-related activities and educators’ guides through the author’s and/or publisher’s website. In addition, Read to Them is an organization that provides lots of helpful materials and resources for arranging OSOB programs. They have an entire section on their website devoted to recommended titles as well as useful information about getting started.
How Much Does a OSOB Program Cost?
According to Read to Them, “The cost for books and program materials depends on the size of the school, and many schools can offset or cover that expense through grants or donations.” Read to Them offers Grant Writing toolkits for free: If you’re planning to include an author visit at the end of your OSOB program, reach out to The Author Village or to that author to find out his/her/their appearance fee and include it in your grant application.
What Are the Other Parts of a OSOB Program?
Now let’s hear from the authors…
How would you describe your experiences with OSOB events?
Some of my best school visits, in person or virtually, have been OSOB events. The schools are very enthusiastic since they have been preparing for the event for weeks. It makes for a captivating audience!
Each time I visit a school who has read one of my books as a community, I am struck by how powerful a binding agent a shared book experience can be. The campus seems to vibrate with an excitement, a closeness—they have a new shared vocabulary, and they are all part of the same club. It’s pretty magical.
What do you think are the benefits of OSOB programs?
The One Book, One School program helps foster community among all the students from the youngest to the oldest. With the recent pandemic, this is something many schools are in short supply of.
Through the program, the schools not only read together, but they often engage in various crafts and activities related to the book. It cultivates a culture where reading is an event or even a celebration, and something the students can look forward to.
One of the main benefits of the OSOB program is that it links together students from all the classes, all grade levels—even students who are physically separated due to virtual learning are part of the same shared conversation. There’s an egalitarian feeling—everyone from the pre-K students to the principal is experiencing the same story at the same time. What a community building experience!
What are your favorite things about an OSOB event?
As an illustrator, one of my favorite things is seeing artwork related to Stella Díaz Has Something to Say displayed in the hallways at a school. Kids are wonderful artists. On a personal level, it is witnessing students’ connections to the book. There is nothing better than hearing someone say, “I’m just like Stella.” That means to me that they feel seen, and that’s amazing.
When I get to visit a community that has shared one of my books, I love the opportunity of answering their specific questions. Whatever a student wants to ask, I am up for answering.
How are your author visits with OSOB programs different from your regular author visits?
With both, I always share information about myself and the creative process, but with an OSOB visit, I make sure to speak about the specific book (usually Stella) with all the students. I always make sure to cater it to the audience. For instance, with the older groups, I focus more on the writing and with the younger groups, I speak more about drawing. This way, all students will have the tools to create their own stories, too.
A school who shares one book as a whole community has taken a step toward enriching their students’ self-view as readers and as partners. Each time I visit a school in which the youngest students have engaged with the same book as the oldest students, I see the sense of pride and connection they feel.
Now let’s hear from a few educators…
What do educators have to say about ending their OSOB program with an author visit?
All of the students in our four elementary schools read Stella Díaz Has Something to Say and we eagerly awaited our virtual visit with Angela Dominguez. Angela’s presentation was both educational and inspiring as she connected her journey as a writer to her own personal story as someone who immigrated to the United States from Mexico at a young age. Sharing her vulnerabilities around learning a new language and culture and being innately shy, Angela connected with students around a universal theme: the desire to belong and fit in. Angela’s explanation of the creative process and how that played out in the creation of the Stella character and series was illuminating and highly engaging. Our students asked prepared questions and Angela’s interactions with them were supportive and genuine.
I don’t think I understood just how powerful A Boy Called Bat was until Elana was there in front of our students and our wider community, distilling the essence of that book right down. Hearing her share Bat’s story was a really positive experience for all of us. Elana is a true professional, yet she doesn’t come across as someone rehearsing lines and producing a product, more like someone who really knows her craft, an authentic representative for literature, and the power of telling a good story
After careful consideration, our school district selected A Boy Called Bat for our One Book, One Community program. What drew us to Ms. Arnold’s novel was the subtle yet powerful way the story sparks meaningful conversations about not only tolerating our differences but embracing what makes us unique. Bat’s adventures with his new house guest, a recently orphaned skunk kit, had students in kindergarten through 6th grade (and their families) deeply engaged in the story.