Poetry Friday/Read Across America/Slice of Life Mash Up

At school today, we kicked off our month-long celebration of Read Across America. Usually we adopt the theme promoted by NEA, Read Across America’s official sponsor. Last year we made truffala trees out of butcher paper to decorate the hallways. Throughout the month, students created book jackets based on books they loved to decorate the trees. We also had a read-a-thon to raise money to purchase a tree in memory of a student who had recently lost her year-long battle with aplastic anemia.

Truffalas waiting to be hung up.
Completed truffala tree
Completed truffala tree

A few years ago, we encouraged everyone to literally read across America and read books from all 50 states. This was harder than you might think. To promote the theme, (Here comes the poetry part of this post!) I wrote a song, with a little help from some students.

See the USA

(Sung to the tune of Dinah Shore’s old Chevrolet commercials)

See the U.S.A., read a book today.

America’s got lots of tales to tell.

From Paul Bunyan’s woods,

to the engine that could

Reading is the way to meet them all.

On a couch or on a chair in the library,

Travel out west,

Meet Ramona the Pest.

To many new sights you will be carried.

So make a date today 

to read the U.S.A.

Pledge to read a book today!

© Catherine Flynn, 2009

It was lots of fun, and we still sing it. Here’s Dinah in an old commercial if you don’t remember the tune.

Which brings us to today. While I love this year’s “Hats off to Dr. Seuss” theme, last October our school accepted Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel Joy Scott was killed in the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. After her death, her parents decided to share her story and writings to inspire people to prevent bullying. As Rachel said,

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

As soon as I heard this, I thought of Auggie and Dr. Wayne Dyer’s precept, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” The dovetailing of these two messages made doing a school-wide read of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder seem like the perfect theme for our Read Across America celebration this year.

Because we’re a K-8 school, we had to find a related text for the lower grades. Jacqueline Woodson thoughtfully wrote the powerful Each Kindness late last year, which filled that bill perfectly! Our PTO generously funded the purchase of a book for every classroom, and today we kicked off our month-long celebration.

Books waiting to be distributed to teachers
Books waiting to be distributed to teachers

We began the morning with each upper grade homeroom visiting a lower grade classroom. Teachers read Each Kindness aloud, and then the students paired up to create and illustrate Kindness is… statements. These will be displayed on bulletin boards throughout the school. Each homeroom in grades 4-8 will be reading Wonder aloud throughout the month, and the lower grades will be reading other picture books related to the theme of kindness. The whole morning went off without a hitch, and we have many fantastic Kindness is…statements. By the way, we wore hats too!

Sixth graders and Kindergarteners creating Kindness is… statements

Happy Read Across America, everyone!

6 thoughts on “Poetry Friday/Read Across America/Slice of Life Mash Up

  1. What a delightful day! I’m going to have to check out Each Kindness. I don’t think I’ve read it. Thanks for sharing your story.



    • The story told in Each Kindness is very similar to the one told in The Hundred Dresses, but it’s much shorter. Because of that, its very powerful and thought-provoking. Don’t miss it!


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