North Tonawanda Starts One District, One Book Initiative
Above: From left, NT Superintendent Greg Woytila, Kelly DiGuiseppe (General Manager, Platter's Chocolates), Marcia Bugyi (NT Librarian), Jayne Davignon (First-Grade Teacher), Nathan Schelble (Counselor), Mike Hiller (Ohio Elementary Principal), Jeannette Hayley (student) and Raymond Keidel (student).
Ohio Elementary Principal Michael Hiller says everyone at the North Tonawanda City School District is excited about their new One District, One Book initiative. “We have such a push for literacy initiatives in our K-3 buildings and with our staff development with our Readers/Writers Workshop. We are trying to build this identity piece for our district and bridge it with the parents. We thought it was a unique opportunity to bring this to NT.”
One District, One Book is a national program that is geared towards students and their families in a school district. It involves students and their families reading the same book, a chapter a night for two weeks.
When Superintendent Greg Woytila heard about the program while touring Lewiston-Porter Central School District, he thought it would be a great way to unite the district and the community. “When we were there we weren’t just looking at the academics, we were looking at the building culture and how does that work,” says Mr. Woytila. “We talked about how we could make it our own and tweak it and make our three K-3 buildings function as one because we have them at opposite ends of the town. We were looking for an activity and event that focused on the curriculum, but brought all three schools together doing the same activity at the same time. That is how we came up with One District, One Book.”
The purpose of One District, One Book is to make a community of readers, and community became a key part of implementing the program. Mr. Hiller, who headed up the committee of dedicated educators and enthusiastic community members, said, “It was a very committed effort by our teachers, who love reading and love this community that really wanted to give something special back. Not only are we hoping kids get excited, we are hoping to get some families involved with reading and hopefully we can push out some of the important work we are doing here out into the homes with that level of collaboration. I want to thank all of the members of the committee for their time and contributions. They are as humble as they are committed. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”
The District had to choose two books for the students and their families to vote between. Since Platter’s Chocolates recently moved into the North Tonawanda school district with their new home in the Wurlitzer Building, the committee thought it would be fun to be pick two chocolate-themed books, Superfudge by Judy Blume and The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling. Kelly DiGuiseppe, General Manager at Platter’s Chocolates, says they were honored to be the inspiration. “I love it and I am so thankful that we got to be part of it. We are in the heart of North Tonawanda and we are so excited to be part of it.”
Voting between the two books began Monday, Sept. 17 and will go until Sept. 21 at Platter’s Chocolates, the North Tonawanda Public Library, the Boys and Girls Club and the North Tonawanda Recreation Center. Marcia Bugyi, North Tonawanda Library Children’s Librarian, says she thinks it is a great initiative. “Today we had voting already. I had a third-grade class come in for a visit and the kids were really excited about voting. I had a mother come in because her kindergartner told her to come in and vote so she did.”
The official unveiling of the One District, One Book results will be on Oct. 11 at the Riviera Theatre at 7 p.m. Until that time, students and their families can watch videos on the North Tonawanda City School District website of guest readers such as Mr. Woytila, Channel 2 anchor Maryalice Demler, Mayor Arthur Pappas and other community members reading one chapter from each of the books. Community partners have also agreed to give a 10 percent discount on their products if the students and their families come in to the establishments with their book.
“Over the last two years, we have worked tirelessly, as a district, to have a unified literacy vision, improve collaboration around reading and writing instruction, and grow as literacy learners ourselves,” says Mr. Hiller. “This new initiative will not only engage students, but it will also allow us, as a community of learners to invite parents into the experience.”