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One School One Read At Sandy Hook



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One School One Read At Sandy Hook

By Nancy K. Crevier

“This was the moment I’d been waiting for. No one had noticed, but the night before, I had sneaked one of Aldo’s white dusting cloths into my sleeping hut. I had to act quickly. I pulled out the cloth and crawled under so it covered me completely. Then I stood up and shouted like I’d never shouted before. ‘Trick or Squeak!’ I cried. ‘Trick or Squeak!’…I continued to squeak my heart out until I heard Mrs Brisbane’s firm footsteps coming toward my cage.”

So reads an excerpt from The World According to Humphrey, by author Betty G. Birney. In addition to Humphrey the hamster’s classroom escapades, he spends weekends with a different student, learns to read, write, and shoot rubber bands, and indulges in many other activities, and the students of Sandy Hook School shared those moments chapter by chapter as they celebrated the sixth annual One School One Read last month.

Becky Virgalla, the SHS Language Arts Consultant, served as coordinator of the event. Kicking off with a schoolwide assembly on March 31, the children, teachers, and families of the students together spent the month of April reading the engaging accounts of the world of the in-school hamster, Humphrey, including participation by guest readers that included First Selectman Joe Borst, selectman Herb Rosenthal, superintendent Janet Robinson, Assistant Superintendent Linda Gejda, Legislative Council members, and representatives from the C.H. Booth Library.

School secretary Joanne Didonato said that of all the books over the years selected for One School One Read, The World According to Humphrey seemed to be one most thoroughly enjoyed by all. “The kids and parents all loved the book,” she said, and with clues posted about the school prior to the kick-off, there was a high level of anticipation and excitement about the all school activity that never wavered the entire month.

Some children even brought in pet hamsters from home to share the “Humphrey experience” with their classmates. And many classes adopted “pet” hamster stuffed animals that children took turns to bringing home.

There was even a schoolwide vote to choose the students’ favorite character from the book. The winner was Speak Up Sayeh.

The One School One Read culminated with a special “Humphrey Happenings” event Wednesday evening, April 30, a celebration of all things hamster by every grade for families, siblings, and students, which drew more than 700 over the course of two sessions.

“Every grade level did an activity,” said Ms Didonato. Kindergartners hosted a 2008 One School One Read slide show in the cafeteria, and provided some of Humphrey’s favorite snacks (like sunflower seeds) for all to enjoy. In Room 10, grade one participants could make a hamster headband and a pet chart, while in Rooms 19 and 21, grade two students presented character traits and other activities.

“The families absolutely loved the SMARTboard Jeopardy sessions put on by grade three,” said Ms Didonato, as well as the activities in the gymnasium presented by the physical education and music classes.

For those wondering about the care of hamsters, grade four provided hamster care tips written on a hamster cutout that formed a giant mosaic hamster.

In the library media center, board games were provided, and families could sign a once-a-week pledge for a No TV/No Video Games plan, during which families can do alternate activities at home. The reading department offered a chance to make a miniature journal and take home a mini-pencil to hide, a la Humphrey. The artistic nature was nurtured in the art room, where families and friends were encouraged to draw a personality portrait.

The two sessions, one from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, and one from 7 to 8 pm, accommodated Sandy Hook’s large student body and guests, and allowed for time and space for everyone to enjoy The World According to Humphrey.

First grade student Allyson Kenny commented, “My favorite part was when Humphrey got to run the obstacle course.”

Fourth grade parent Betsy Hoyt, whose daughter Lindsay read the book with her class, said, “This is our last year at SHS, and this is definitely one of our favorite events. It is so much fun, and so well organized. We will miss it when we move on to Reed. The kids love it, and so do I!”

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