One Book, One School, One Solution

You’ve heard the reports – low reading scores, high drop-out rates, complaints from the business world that our graduates can’t write complete sentences. Many children begin school without the basic skills to learn to read, already a step behind their peers. The solution to much of this, we know, is a deceptively simple task: getting parents to consistently read to their children. But aside from using Big-Brother-like tactics, how can we help make this dream become a reality?

One program boasting great results is a program called READ TO THEM.  READ TO THEM is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to enable every family in North America to read quality children’s novels out loud, together, at home.” To do this, RTT provides everything a school or district would need (besides the books themselves) to start and run a program of their own.

For free.

That’s right people! You heard it here first.

What the people at RTT have zeroed in on is what every person who’s ever been in a book club already knows – that reading a book together is mind-expanding, exciting, and just plain fun! Case in point: when the long awaited “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” came out, our family had just left on vacation to Florida, two copies in tow. Wherever we went that week – the airport, the beach, the pool – we spotted that familiar orange-and purple tome – on deck chairs, in swim bags and most often, gripped in front of sun-block-covered noses. When these readers – total strangers – looked up and saw my two older children clutching their own copies to their damp chests, there was a shared look of secret camaraderie. Unable to contain their excitement, they’d ask, “How far are you?” and, “Did you get to the part about…” A lively discussion would usually ensue. Now imagine a whole school or an entire district reading the same book – with the added benefit of parental involvement and role modeling. Talk about a win-win situation!

I first learned of this ‘one book’ idea from Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago, now in it’s tenth year. I decided to offer schools a similar program, offering a free author visit in exchange for using my book as their ‘one book.’ The results have been fabulous! The excitement in the culminating programs – skits, trivia games, Q&A sessions – is palpable and teachers have been thrilled with the high level of involvement of all their students.

Yes, it’s something we here at the Mixed Up Files already knew.

And something you probably already knew too.

One book really can make all the difference.


Beverly Patt’s children would disown her if she claimed, in public, that she read to them well into their junior high years. So she won’t. Really. Her lips are sealed. She is the author of Best Friends Forever: A WWII Scrapbook (Cavendish) and Haven (Blooming Tree Press).

Beverly Patt