OXFORD —  Oxford Elementary School kicked off its fourth annual OES Reads program last week with an assembly to distribute books to hundreds of students.

“This is our whole-school community read to promote family literacy and a connectedness between all our school ‘family,'” said Melissa Gurrette, grades 5 and 6 Humanities teacher.

This year students will read two books by the same author to allow for flexible reading interests.

The book selections are made from books that will “prompt conversations and will appeal to a wide range of students,” according to information from Gurrette.

“For OES Reads, every student is given a brand new book to become part of their family’s book collection and shared experience,” she said. 

Gurrette said students in pre-K-grade 2 are reading “Shelter Pet Squad: Jelly Bean and grades 3-6 students are reading “Rules,” both written by Maine author, Cynthia Lord.

“We use some of our Title I parent involvement money to buy books for the students’ families, and our PTA is generous in supporting us with the balance needed to give everyone a common book,” Gurrette said, adding that as the program grows financially she hopes to add a wider variety of books for students to read. About 1,800 books have been distributed during the past four years.

As part of the month-long literacy effort, Oxford Elementary School students and their families joined together at the school for World Read Aloud Night last week. The evening included reading, including a read aloud by staff, a special video featuring the students and family reading time, and even milk and a snack.

Another reading night – the OES Reads Family Night – will be held on Tuesday, March 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The snow date is Wednesday, March 16.

The program will conclude on Thursday, March 24, with an assembly at 1:30 p.m. where students and parents will finish reading their books together and share their work.

On that day, Oxford Elementary will host this year’s author, Cynthia Lord, for an all-day school visit. 

Lord is a children’s author whose debut novel “Rules” was published by Scholastic Inc. in 2006 and received the 2007 Newbery Honor Book and Schneider Family Book Award. A resident of southern Maine, Lord is a former teacher and book seller and now devotes her time to writing children’s fiction and traveling to school to talk about the writing process.

“While here, Cynthia will do two presentations and attend our closing celebration,” Gurrette said.

OES Reads started in 2012 when a group of staff wanted to connect students and their families and staff through one book experience that everyone was reading at the same time, according to information from Gurrette. The committee has grown to include parents and others.

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