Savvy second-grader Jayden Le, a student at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway, enjoys Read Across America activities this week. After Superintendent Heather Manchester read to Le and his classmates he spoke up to tell her how special she is. Later, he asked Gov. Janet Mills what it is like to be a recognizable public figure. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

REGION — Educators in Oxford Hills have pulled out all the stops to pack as many books as possible into this week’s annual Read Across America event.

In addition to teachers and ed techs showcasing the importance of books and reading, staff have invited district administrators, business leaders, community members and even Maine’s chief executive to participate in reading to students in their classrooms.

This second grade student at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School dressed appropriately for Read Across America week. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Monday, second-graders at Guy E. Rowe School were treated to readings by district Superintendent Heather Manchester and Governor Janet Mills, who stopped in at the school to read an illustrated book about the importance of friendship, talk with them about what they learn in school and answer questions.

At Oxford Elementary School, educators reached out to their professional and social media networks to ask that at least one person from each of the 50 United States recommend a book to introduce to students. Melissa Guerrette, who teaches fifth grade at OES and coordinates OES Reads activities during the week, told the Advertiser Democrat that as of Monday recommendations were pending from only two states, North and South Dakota.

“We have had some interesting titles suggested to us,” she said. “A lot of picture books and middle grade books, especially. We’re getting classic favorites and also more contemporary titles. A librarian in Vermont suggested a book that has 20 holds on it in her school library, Endlessly Ever After by Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat. It’s an interactive fairy tale where readers get to choose the characters and direction of the story.”

Besides a scheduled rotation of volunteer readers visiting classrooms this week, OES also chooses one book that is appropriate for all students to engage with. One year the theme surrounded what the best school pet would be. This year the book chosen was The First Blade of Sweetgrass: A Native American story, writen by Suzanne Greenlaw and Gabriel Frey.


“The National Education Association, which sponsors Read Across America, recommends books that celebrate America as a nation of diverse readers,” Guerrette said. “Our parent-teacher organization purchased 30 copies of The First Blade of Sweetgrass, to give every student access to the book this week. The writers are from Northern Maine.”

“Each time we select a title, what we’re really doing is thinking about books that students can see themselves reflected in in some way and that opens their world to others’ lived experiences. Books as mirrors and windows, the importance of children seeing themselves in texts, as well as others. It helps build empathy and one thing we talk about here is the idea that books can serve as mirrors, and students can connect with books we share. But also how are those books windows that let them learn about things they might not otherwise know.”

Brenda Fickett, owner of Norway Soft Serve, is one of the Oxford Hills community members visiting Oxford Elementary School this week to read to students. On Monday she spent time with Kaitlyn Flaherty’s kindergarten class.

Guerrette shared that one teacher reported that a second-grader learned that the indigenous characters picking sweetgrass to make baskets was similar to how her family harvests strawberries together.

“It helps students think about similarities and differences and how to embrace that.”

Back at Rowe, Gov. Mills and students there talked about how the characters in the book A Visitor for Bear became friends and the importance of friendships, also important topics for youngsters’ social and emotional learning.

Mills talked about what it’s like to be a state governor and learned that math is the favorite subject for many of the kids. One student, Jayden Le, told Mills that reading and writing are his favorite subjects and remarked that he had seen her on a television commercial.


“When you go in stores do you get noticed a lot?” Le asked. “Do random people just come up to you ‘oh my gosh, you’re the governor?'”

Students from Kelli Knapp’s (left), Claudette Pierce’s, Jillian Murphy’s and Samantha Seder’s second grade classes were treated to a special visit by Gov. Janet Mills (center) Monday, who stopped by the school to read the book “A Visitor for Bear” to them. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat





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