STONINGTON — For one day, across seven class periods, Pawcatuck Middle School students, teachers and staff members read an entire book.
Sprinkled in between the chapters and discussions throughout the day, the students also lived Shelley Pearsall’s “All of the Above” — enjoying recipes, like barbecue and Willy Q’s Chocolate Truth Cake, that are part of the book.
“We hijacked the whole day,” said Noreen Elliott, a sixth-grade language arts teacher. “We’re reading in P.E.; we’re reading in science. We have one of our cafeteria staff members reading one of the recipes.”
Elliott led Pawcatuck Middle’s One Book, One Day on Friday, touting it as a community-building, literary celebration. It began with an assembly at which fifth-grade math teacher Sheila Adams and a handful of students read the first chapters of the book to the entire school.
Each student received a copy of “All of the Above,” and throughout the day they read to themselves or followed along while others read aloud. By the end of the day, everyone had finished the book. (the hard cover edition is 256 pages.)
“It’s really neat that everybody is reading the same book and we’re all going to finish it,” seventh-grader Kelsea Anderson said. “It’s kind of a chill day, too, so that’s fun.”
“All of the Above” is a mix of comedy, drama and middle school life, and it’s designed for a one-day reading activity. It tells the story of four inner city students from Cleveland, Ohio, and their quest to build the world’s largest tetrahedron, a pyramid made of equilateral triangles.
The story weaves together the personal stories of the kids, their teacher, and the community that surrounds them.
“It’s going to be fun,” Principal Tim Smith told students at the assembly, “but it’s also academic work.”
Elliott said the idea demonstrates the importance of reading.
“They see throughout the day that the math teacher doesn’t only do math and the science teacher doesn’t only do science,” she said. It “turned out awesome. Some comments about the day from kids: ‘I didn’t read a book the whole summer, so I was surprised I could read a whole book in one day.’
“Also: ‘What I liked best about One Book, One Day was that I got to read with my friends and talk with them about the story.’”
The whole school joined together at the end of the day to finish the book.
“We got to hear a lot of different readers,” Lillith Kelleher, a seventh-grader, said. “It helps when you get to see and hear different teachers and students read a book.”
“All of the Above” is based on a true story and has been praised for its STEM connections (science, technology, engineering and math). Pawcatuck Middle is among several schools across the country that has read the entire novel together in one day.
“The themes of this book lead into very natural extensions for the rest of the school year around problem-solving, perseverance, teamwork, and community building,” Elliott said. “We will also be planning some community service activities as extensions. Our math and science classes would like to take on the challenge of building a tetrahedron pyramid, too.”