Davenport school brings students together one book at a time

DAVENPORT, Iowa--  Educators at SMART Intermediate School say middle school can be tough for students.

"A lot of middle schoolers feel isolated and feel like they don't have anything in common with anyone," teacher librarian Emily Simpao says.

So Simpao decided to start a new program at SMART called "One School, One Book." Every student, teacher, paraeducator, secretary, security guard, lunch room worker and counselor has a new copy of "Ghost" by Jason Reynolds.

"It's been great because kids who maybe don't usually talk to each other have something new to connect over," says Charlotte Shepherd, a SMART science teacher.

Twice a week, students have discussions in class about where they're at in the book. There's also trivia, and kids have the chance to win prizes for correct answers.

Students are even talking about the book outside of class.

"When you look around, almost everybody has the book around, talking about it, and I know that I've had a few conversations about it," says Derrick Bass, an eighth-grader.

The school is even welcoming the author on March 28 for a book reading and presentation.

But what started out with just one book is turning into something more: a holiday surprise for all the kids.

"I've had some students tell me they don't have books in the home or that they've never had a brand new book," Shepherd says.

So the teachers and staff at SMART have organized a holiday book drive to give every student a new book before winter break.

They say it's a way to show the students they care and to even inspire a love of reading.

The staff is a little more than halfway to its goal but still needs about 200 more books. New books can be dropped off at SMART or they can be ordered and shipped using the school's wish list on Amazon.com. Organizers hope to have all the books by the end of the week, Friday, Dec. 14.

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