Reading the book kicked off a yearlong focus on positive character traits. The trait reinforced by reading “Restart” as a school is kindness. Subsequent character traits throughout the year will include perseverance, collaboration, gratitude and more.
“They are positive qualities we want to see in our students in how they interact with one another and the qualities we want to nurture in them. We all make choices to exhibit those positive qualities,” Emily Edwards, instructional coach at HCMS, said. “The idea is that everybody can have that restart, that fresh start, and change the things that they’ve done in the past to be the kind of person they want to be.”
As each month’s trait is introduced, activities at school will provide opportunities for students to exhibit the trait. Kids who “get caught” being kind, collaborative or grateful, will be rewarded throughout the month. At the end of each month, a spotlight student from each grade level who exemplifies that month’s trait will be recognized.
“We just want to make those kids feel special that they did something really good,” Edwards said.
When sixth-grader Emma Durbin shared her late grandfather’s paintbrushes with another student in art class, she received a kindness ticket and will be entered into a weekly drawing for a small prize.
“It’s good that the school promotes kindness. It’s a good idea to reward us for the good things we do and not focus so much on the bad,” Durbin said. “And the book taught about bullying. I’ve been bullied in the past, and it’s very sad times. So I hope the book will make some kids think about what they do and say and how it can hurt other people.”
Durbin said she’s picky when it comes to selecting books to read and that she enjoyed “Restart” because each chapter is told by a different character and that kept her wondering what would happen next.
“The way the book is written, we get to know what each character is thinking - what’s going on inside their heads – and it helps us realize that we all think the same things,” Media Specialist Katrina Johnson said. “We share the same fears about what other people think about us, what we’ve done and how we want to be perceived. We’re all alike in that way.”
And asking every teacher in the school to participate in reading aloud to their classes helped to promote a culture of literacy and togetherness for HCMS. Across subject matter, from math to science to PE, teachers dedicated several minutes of their class time each day to reading scheduled sections of the book so that every student heard the same passages at the same time – in essence, reading the book together.
“When students see teachers reading across the disciplines, it builds excitement for reading in general,” Johnson said. “Everyone gets to share in that enjoyment, and it is great modeling for our students to hear all their teachers read aloud.”
Edwards pointed out that the academic benefits of reading aloud to students have repeatedly been proven by research, saying it models reading fluency, increases engagement and encourage a love for reading. Plus, students of all ages love to be read to, Edwards said.
“Sometimes we think kids this age don’t like being read aloud to, but they do. They still need to hear that reader’s voice in their head, listen to that model of fluency, and develop comprehension when teachers ask questions as they read aloud,” Edwards said “Because that’s what proficient readers do. In their mind, they ask themselves questions and make inferences and predictions about what they are reading. So we’re modeling not only fluency, but we’re modeling what a proficient reader does, which gives those kids a boost when they have to read on their own.”
Research also shows that students who are better readers have more extensive vocabularies and generally perform better in school because literacy skills apply to all subject matters. Edwards said that recent studies indicate that reading fiction helps students develop a world perspective and promotes empathy. Reading this book corporately built excitement among students.
“I had several students come in and want to check the book out so they could find out what happened next,” Johnson said. “And I’m sure I’ll have students who enjoyed the book so much, they’ll come in and ask for other books by the same author or ask for similar books to check out and read on their own.”
To culminate the school-wide read, HCMS had a silly sock day on Friday. The idea was to “slip on a new beginning.” Throughout the week, students could answer trivia questions to win pairs of silly socks, which were purchased by the Youth Services Center, who also purchased all the copies of “Restart,” which can now be used as a class set in the future.
“I love the idea that at any time, any one of us can decide to change – restart our lives,” Edwards said. “At the beginning of the school year is a great time to introduce that idea to our students. And having shared in reading the book together, it’s a theme we can remind each other of throughout the year.”