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Irving ISD spreads joy of reading

Three Weeks of Wonder is a three week program designed to help fourth through sixth graders and their families discover the joy of reading. Families across Irving ISD will follow a reading schedule from Oct. 30-Nov. 17, while students discuss the novel in their classes and answer trivia questions.

All students involved in the reading program will receive a free hard cover copy of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. In addition to reading Wonder, students will engage in activities centered on the story’s themes of kindness and celebrating differences.

Wonder is about a ten-year-old boy in New York City born with a facial deformity who struggles to make friends. The theme of kindness is repeated throughout the book.

“The district’s initiative of 3 Weeks of Wonder, which is under a program called One District, One Book, is only fourth through sixth graders,” said Pamela Capulong, the Townsell Elementary librarian. “They are going to read the book each night with their parents or sibling, and they will have activities to do each night. 

“The students have a parade for the veterans each year, but this year we are also going to create a poetry slam, a music concert for them, and serve them a pancake breakfast as an initiative to go along with Wonder.

“As far as the One District, One Book, it’s a great opportunity,” said Lavina Mitchell, parent of a Townsell Elementary student. “My daughter loves to read, but it’s just the idea of everyone being on the same book at the same time. Throughout the course they are asking these trivia questions about the book, and they actually get to talk about it when they are in class. She enjoys being able to discuss a book with her peers and when she comes home.”

In July 2017, the program One District, One Book earned Irving ISD recognition nationwide. DA Magazine (District Administration Magazine), a publication for superintendents, asked schools to submit a program they were participating in that could be modeled by other school districts. Out of thousands of projects submitted, the magazine chose 50 and Townsell Elementary’s One District, One Book project was selected.

A movie titled Wonder based on the book opens in theaters Nov. 17.

“I hope the students all go to the movie in November,” Capulong said. “That’s the big excitement about it. I hope it helps them build relationships, because teachers and staff will be reading the book along with the kids, and it helps us build relationships with them.

“As a counselor, my job is to come in here and teach them to be good people who go off and choose kindness,” said Michelle Grady, first, third and fifth grade counselor. “It’s a tangible example that they can see how somebody else is being kind. I hope that resonates with them, and they are able to do it to somebody, somewhere, someday.”

“Every night when my daughter has the reading, we all get together and read,” Capulong said. “My younger kids are also involved in the reading as a bedtime reading. All of my kids are there listening to the story and asking questions. We spend at least 30 to 40 minutes reading. At the end, we tend to ask her what she got out of this chapter. It’s a learning environment not just for her, but for my little kids as well.

“In the future, we plan to have other activities like having the fifth graders make cards for children who cannot leave the hospital during the holiday season. This will last until Nov. 17. We are thinking about creating get-well cards, collecting gift baskets, candy, and then sending them to the children’s hospital.”

Irving ISD uses the program Irving Reads for different literacy initiatives across the district. The program was started in 2011 by Irving ISD’s previous superintendent Dana Bedden.

“It was a need in the community, but many of our students didn’t have access to books,” said Patricia Alvarado, instructional of technology and learning resources at Irving ISD. “We partnered with a couple of vendors and started building home libraries for the students. We did this for several years, and when Dr. Parra came in 2014 he wanted to add to it.

“Just as other people identified as runners or scrap-bookers, we want our students to say I’m a reader. We want them to have that passion for reading and learning. We love teaching our students to read, but if they don’t like to read then we’ve missed something.

Renee Newry, Library services and coordinator at Irving ISD, said that the Three Weeks of Wonder initiative is to get students and parents to read out loud.

“Typically with older kids, people tend to think they can read by themselves,” Newry said. “We are still pushing the idea of parents, kids, and students reading together. We want kids to be literate and to enjoy reading. This allows us to promote the whole idea of the freedom to read. We want them to know you can connect with books and there are ideas in books that connect with us as readers.”