There is a renewed sense of “community” at Horizon Community Middle School, thanks to the One Book, One School program.
“It was a great unifying experience,” said HCMS media teacher Cecilia Orfila, who coordinated the program that involves students and staff reading and discussing the same book. The concept was introduced by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998 and since then, cities and schools across the country have hosted One Book programs to promote literacy and community.
“We all came together,” Orfila said. “Some kids join sports, others drama, but this was an activity that everyone at Horizon could participate in.” Staff, faulty and even parents also participated.
Horizon students voted on the book they wanted to read. They selected “Out of My Mind,” the powerful story of 11-year-old Melody Brooks, a child who cannot walk or talk because she has cerebral palsy. The book chronicles her challenges at home and her struggles at school, where she is often bullied or ignored because of her condition.
“It was all about perseverance,” said eighth-grader Sierra McGuire. “It was really inspiring. It showed me you have to keep going even if people are mean.”
“It helped me understand and appreciate life a little more,” said Kyle Kornele, also an eighth-grader.
“Out of My Mind” was written by award-winning author and 1997 National Teacher of the Year Sharon Draper. Horizon students got to do a Twitter-chat with Draper on Dec. 11 as the culminating activity of the One Book, One School program.
“For the kids to have the opportunity to communicate with her - that was awesome,” Orfila said. “Kids use social media to talk to friends, but through our Twitter chat with Ms. Draper, they came to the realization that social media can also be used as a learning tool.”
Students collaborated on questions for Draper, which were submitted to her via Twitter by students who were at least 13 and had both a Twitter account and parent permission. Draper responded via Twitter and students were able to read her answers on large screens in their classrooms.
Students asked whether Draper had the support of family and friends when she was writing the book. (Her answer: “Yes, my family is very supportive. They leave me alone and let me write. LOL.”) Students wanted to know why Draper included a scary scene where Melody is left at an airport. (Her answer: “I didn't end it scary. Sometimes you need a good scare.”)
Horizon students also asked for advice on becoming better writers. Draper told them the most important thing is to “Write every day.”
Eighth-grader Sierra McGuire, who has wanted to be an author since she was six years old, said she will take that advice to heart.
“Keep trying and talk to as many people as you can because they know a lot more than you do,” McGuire said. “You write, you practice, you get better and someone will notice.”