Each month this school year, the National Junior Honor Society at St. John’s Lutheran School at Sauers is promoting school togetherness.
Cassie Irwin, faculty leader of the organization and a teacher at the school, and Leanna Royalty, a kindergarten teacher, attended a Lutheran Education Association conference in October and heard about the One Book, One School initiative. That’s where a book is chosen for all of the school to read.
When they returned to Sauers, they wanted to implement the program. It just so happened that November was National Family Literacy Month.
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The school’s nearly 90 students in kindergarten through eighth grade spent the month reading the book “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. That book was chosen because of the author’s popularity among students.
For the younger students, their teacher or seventh- and eighth-graders read a few chapters of the 200-plus-page book to them once a week. Other students read in their classroom.
To celebrate everyone finishing the book, a “drive-in movie” event was conducted in the school gymnasium. Students had an opportunity to make cars out of cardboard to sit in while watching the movie that’s based on the book.
They also could buy drinks and snacks from the concession stand, which featured items donated by the National Junior Honor Society members. The proceeds will go toward covering the members’ annual dues.
The society is for students in Grades 6 through 8 who show great academic achievement in the classroom and leadership outside the classroom. Sauers has about 20 members.
“It was just a cool experience, and I’m really glad the kids got to come together and read together, and then see their final product together,” Irwin said.
The students were able to show creativity with their cars. The creations included a firetruck that seated two people and a “chicken coupe” car shaped like a chicken.
First-graders Will Hackman and Ben Klosterman sat in the firetruck, which had a couple of openings on the top.
“I wanted to make a firetruck because my dad is a firefighter,” Will said.
“I thought the windows were awesome,” Ben said.
Kindergartner Kennedi Butler said she loves the movie “Frozen,” so that’s what she incorporated into her car.
About 40 students made their own car.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as great of a turnout like this. This turnout is awesome, and they were really excited about that,” Irwin said. “It just allows the school to come together, which is a nice thing, especially where so many schools are losing sight of that sometimes.”
Royalty said her kindergartners were excited about the drive-in movie.
“We provided them with a box if they needed it, but they were all creative, and they really showed some of their interests, like Batman and Doc McStuffins,” she said. “A lot of them were able to do it by themselves or at least come up with the idea and really work on it at home.”
Irwin said “Matilda” also was chosen as the book to read because it presents a good message.
“Matilda is an avid reader, and you come to find that she escapes her harsh reality through novels,” she said. “A big thing is with these kids, they learn the escape for them maybe that they need is through literacy, which is a huge thing for people to learn at this age already.”
The teachers saw enthusiasm in the students throughout November.
“They are super excited,” Royalty said. “They go home and ask questions to their parents, ‘Have you seen this? Have you heard about that?’ They always want to know what’s next. … Even the kindergartners are excited about it. They understand what’s going on.”
The students also were able to tackle a chapter book, which can be intimidating to some, Irwin said.
“This book is over 200 pages, so for some of those kids who have never seen that number in a book, they now see what it looks like,” Irwin said.
“They also see the difference between movies and a book,” she said. “How many times does a kid say, ‘Oh, I saw the movie.’ Now, they can see the difference between novel and film.”
With reading being a life skill, Irwin said the goal of the project was to encourage students to read more.
“It taught me that reading could be fun if you put the time and effort into it,” seventh-grader Emma Klinge said.
Faith Baumgartel, a fourth-grader, said it was fun to see the difference between the movie and the book.
Twins Jenna and Mallory Klosterman, both fourth-graders, said they like to read because they learn a lot.
Other students at the school now have a better understanding of the importance of reading.
“It’s an important skill in life, and you’re always going to need to know how, so you might as well learn it now,” sixth-grader Kate Connell said.
“It is extremely important to read due to all the experiences you can learn through the story,” eighth-grader Katherine Benter said.
“I feel it is important because you learn new words, and your vocabulary increases,” fellow eighth-grader Sydney Jaynes said. “Also, every book has a theme and message. Therefore, you can learn from what the characters are experiencing.”