By Jeff Gallatin
Humphrey the Hamster has already helped the One School, One Book program roll into another building in the Bay Village schools, and has other area districts asking about the reading and community involvement activity.
Bay Village school officials said Westerly School will also participate in the One School, One Book program in the 2014-2015 school year. The national program was brought into Normandy School last year by new Principal Dan Sebring. In it, a book is selected for youngsters in the school to read. The pupils’ parents are also asked to participate by reading with them and discussing the book in the home. Businesses and other community organizations also are invited to become involved by placing pictures or posters of the book or its characters at their sites.
After it was revealed at a special school assembly as the book for Normandy last year, Humphrey the Hamster pictures, clues and books were seen in hundreds of residential, academic and business locations throughout Bay Village last year. In addition, the school had an actual Humphrey the Hamster, with several different classrooms sharing time as his caretaker and some Bay families also getting their own Humphrey for their households.
“He was a pretty popular guy, all right,” Sebring said. “The success of the program shows how effective the One School, One Book program can be. We’ve also gotten interest from other school districts as well.”
Sebring said the interest extends all the way across northern Ohio.
“We got inquiries about it from Lakewood and North Ridgeville, and we also heard from some schools in the Toledo area as well,” he said.
Sebring said the program is effective in several different ways.
“It engages not only the students, but their parents and the community as well,” he said. “It’s fun for the students to participate in with not only the reading and different activities, but it also helps them learn. And it’s good for the parents to be involved in the activities as well.”
Bay Village school Superintendent Clint Keener said having outside involvement in One School, One Book is a major plus for the program.
“Having the parents so closely involved in the program and the educational process is huge,” he said. “We can do a lot as a school district with good teachers and programs, but having strong parental engagement and involvement is crucial to the educational process of children. If they’re actively involved and interested, a student will learn a lot more.”
Keener said the success of the One School, One Book program makes expanding it to Westerly School a good move.
“When you get a program like that that promotes education and involvement, it makes sense to put it in another school,” he said. “The good thing about our district is that we can share ideas and programs. Principal (Josie) Sanfilippo started a really good program, the Moveup Day, where students go to the school they’re going to go to the next year and meet teachers and other people at the school. It lessened the anxiety for a lot of young students and their families and because it’s worked really well, we’re using at other schools as well.”
Sanfilippo said she’s glad to see the One School, One Book program coming to Westerly next year.
“We have some teachers who are very excited about being able to do the program next year,” she said. “Clearly, it’s an excellent program for getting students and their families involved in the educational process.”
She said having the program at Westerly has other benefits.
“We have students moving up a grade to Westerly who were already involved with it and Humphrey at Normandy,” she said. “They’re already familiar with it and are excited about being involved in the program again.”
Both principals said they have groups working on selecting the books to be used for the One School, One Book program, and will announce them after the 2014-2015 school year begins.