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NGPS celebrates reading, dogs with reverse parade

NGPS celebrates reading, dogs with reverse parade

On Thursday, April 22, Nathanael Greene Primary School capped off two weeks of their annual “One School, One Book” program with a reverse parade—inviting both virtual and in-person learners to drive through the bus lane with their families to visit with teachers decked out in their finest themed costumes and props to represent this year’s book. Later that evening, families gathered on Zoom for a read-aloud event featuring dog-themed stories and poems read by a team of teachers.

“Henry and Mudge: The First Book” is the first in a series by Newberry medalist Cynthia Rylant and follows the adventures of a lonely young boy (Henry) who lives on a street without any other children and finds companionship in a big dog named Mudge.

The school provided copies of the book to every family across grade levels.

“We purchased the books for the students so nobody has to pay for anything,” said NGPS Principal Danielle Alicea. “Virtual students could come pick up their books and materials to make dog ears … and then we sent home the snack with our in-person students but we did the reverse parade so the virtual kids could come and pick up their snacks as well to attend the read-aloud.”

Teachers and school reading specialists with all manner of dog-themed apparel handed out Scooby Snacks (bone-shaped graham crackers) and juice boxes to kids as they cruised through the bus lane, and a few actual dogs were also in attendance.

In the two weeks leading up to the parade, students were instructed to read one chapter per night with their families and to complete one optional activity for each chapter based on a “choice board” sent home by the teachers.

“They read it at home and they read it at school and they did activities to go along with each chapter,” said Jennifer Murphy, reading specialist at the school. “Every night they were supposed to try and do one (activity), and if they got seven checks on their choice board they get a free pizza.”

According to Bridget Lambert, another reading specialist at NGPS, the choice boards featured seven choices for each day: one choice was an art or drawing assignment (such as “draw your favorite make-believe pet”); one was a reading challenge (“read a book under the covers with a flashlight”); one was a social-emotional learning activity (“How did Henry feel when Mudge was lost?”); and each night also gave the option of donating to the local animal shelter. For students who completed their choice boards, the Stanardsville and Ruckersville Domino’s pizza restaurants provided tokens that can be exchanged for a free pizza.

“They don’t have to complete the choice board, so it’s a nice motivator to give them a reason why—because then they get a free pizza,” Alicea said.

In addition to the choice boards, classrooms participated in morning activities discussing each chapter to further increase the sense of community from the entire school reading the same book.

“There were some morning meeting slideshows that they had where they could talk about their favorite pet—just question starters to kind of get them excited about them all reading the book together,” Alicea said. “Like turn and talk to your partner about what you read in the book last night, or let’s listen to a chapter of the book together.”

After the parade, families gathered around their computer screens to join in the read aloud activity. According to Alicea, 66 people logged in despite some local internet outages that evening.

“It’s a nice way to be able to still engage students despite not being able to bring kids in for events with their families,” she said. “We’re just trying to get really creative on how can we still engage families virtually from a distance.”

“This is the sixth year NGPS has held a One School One Book event; (it) has been a successful event from the first year,” said Reading Interventionist Tina Arritt. “It has been a way to bring families into our school community. While this year’s event has been dramatically scaled back, we still felt it would bring our students, teachers and their families together in a special way.”

Nathanael Greene Elementary School also held a “One School, One Book” event earlier this year. They read “Malcolm at Midnight” by W.H. Beck and the school was able to arrange a question-and-answer session for students to talk to the author via Zoom.

According to Richmond-based nonprofit Read to Them (, more than 175 schools in Virginia participate in the “One School, One Book” program annually.

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