The school that reads together, stays together

By Dick Mason, The Observer April 26, 2013 11:12 am

Cove Elementary third-graders, from left, Ashton Furer, Robbie Michael and Marcus Chamberlain excitedly discuss the book “The One and Only Ivan.” (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Cove Elementary third-graders, from left, Ashton Furer, Robbie Michael and Marcus Chamberlain excitedly discuss the book “The One and Only Ivan.” (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

Book project unites Cove Elementary students

by DICK MASON / The Observer 

COVE — Looking for one of the largest unofficial new book clubs in Northeast Oregon?

Look no further than Cove Elementary School. 

The school’s teachers and its more than 100 students recently became the equivalent of a book club, coming together to read “The One and Only Ivan” by K.A. Applegate. Cove Elementary’s classes turned the book’s pages in synchrony, reading the same passages each day for about a month. The project provided a common thread for everyone from kindergarteners to sixth-graders. 

“It was a fun way to integrate the school,” said Ginger Noble, who teaches first grade and is a Title I reading instructor at Cove Elementary. 

The book is a story about a gorilla who spends at least 20 years in a cage in a shopping mall. The book, based on a true story, is told as Ivan’s diary. Earlier this year, the work received the prestigious Newberry Medal, an award given annually by the Association for Library Services to Children to the top children’s book.

“The One and Only Ivan” is a work Cove Elementary students not only read but analyzed together. Each day, all teachers read the same passage to their students. The children then discussed the book and responded to a question of the day about the book posted by Cove sixth-graders on a digital Internet board. 

Cove sixth-grade teacher Eric Gustavson is proud of how his students embraced their role in the book project.

“They appreciated being leaders,” Gustavson said.

The sixth-graders not only came up with a question of the day but also monitored the digital Internet board, making sure everything said was appropriate and commending younger students for insightful comments, often in person.

“It was kind of cool to get the opinions of people for all age groups,” said sixth-grader Jack Silveira. 

Gavin Hankins, also a sixth-grader, said he enjoyed the experience.

“It was fun getting to know the younger kids,” he said.

Classmate Landon Moore had a similar sentiment.

“I liked helping the younger kids,” he said.

The book project was initiated and led by kindergarten and first-grade teacher Pat VanNice. The book she chose connected with children of all ages because it is not hard to read but has a powerful message, Gustavson said. 

“It was fun for the kids to realize that every student was involved in its emotion at the same time,” Gustavson said. 

School District Superintendent Bruce Neil noted that the book project was so successful that people at Cove High School are now discussing starting a similar program in 2013-14.