Teachers, staff and students at Indian Land Middle School have something in common.
Everyone in the school, from the principal to the students, participated in a reading program in which they all read the same book, "On My Honor." It was selected by media specialist Sherri Alsto in part because it offered opportunities to demonstrate the importance of good character.
Alsto also chose the book because it centered around two young boys. She hoped that would be a draw for male students, who typically don't like to read, she added.
Reading the same book helped the students relate to the teachers and staff, said Principal David McDonald.
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"I think a lot of them were surprised that we would take an interest and do it," McDonald said. "I think it's opened the door that we do have similar interests and share in the desire to read and love of reading. The students can walk up to any adult in the school and talk about the book."
In the story, two boys go to a river and one dares the other to go swimming. One of the boys drowns, leaving the surviving boy with crushing guilt.
After reading the book, the school had a "Celebration Day," when every classroom had activities related to the book. In math classes, students did a survey about peer pressure, which the boys in the book experience, and graphed the results of the survey. In language arts classes, the students wrote a 13th chapter to the 12-chapter book.
Activities will continue throughout the year, McDonald said. He hopes to bring in guest speakers related to the book, including a possible web-camera appearance by "On My Honor" author Marion Dane Bauer.
From Oct. 14 to Dec. 3, students are participating in a community service project that ties into the book's themes and lessons. Students are collecting gifts to deliver to the Levine Children's Hospital at Christmas time.
"It's important when you discuss any piece of literature to connect it to the real world," Alston said. "And it's important for kids to learn to be selfless. . . . And if we can do this every year, by the time they leave Indian Land Middle School they will have not only done the school-wide read but have given of themselves three times. We have to instill those values in them."