One Book, Once School author visits Lenape High School

One Book, Once School author visits Lenape High School

It may not have been the end of the world, but when author Emmy Laybourne visited Lenape High School in October to talk about her post-apocalyptic book “Monument 14”, the students could hardly contain their excitement. The author’s visit was the climax of this year’s One Book, One School initiative, which promoted literacy by encouraging the entire Lenape community to not only read Laybourne’s book, but get involved in the school and community as well.

“We urged everyone to read the book. Our staff members even integrated it into their curriculum,” said Larry Strittmatter, assistant principal and supervisor at Lenape High School. “We also gave away 115 different prizes donated by businesses to kids who got involved after reading the book. We tried everything we could think of to promote enthusiasm for reading, and I’m really pleased with the businesses that supported our efforts to promote literacy.”

Prior to Laybourne’s visit, students participated in several activities related to “Monument 14”, including a homeroom challenge, in which each homeroom class was “locked” in, just like the characters in Laybourne’s book, and asked to label a map with details they remembered from the novel. Prizes included Kindles donated by Oak Mortgage, breakfast in class, parking passes, lunch with the principals, and gift certificates to iTunes, The Hair Cuttery, Wawa, and more.

In addition, students were invited to participate in the button challenge. If a student engaged a teacher in a conversation about the book, they received a button, which meant they were one of the 225 students who would attend the assembly led by Laybourne. Laybourne’s lecture used Youtube videos to explain how to structure a story, but she also gave insights into her own writing process and offered a sneak peak of her next book, “Sweet”, due out in June, 2015. At the end of the assembly, she took questions, posed for pictures with the students, and signed copies of her books.

Laybourne also spent time with Lenape’s creative writing and poetry classes during two workshops, and held an informal “lunch and learn” with a handful of lucky students.

“I was so honored and flabbergasted that the entire student body would read my book. It’s staggering that my book is making connections like this,” Laybourne said. “The kids at Lenape are bright, polite, and fun, and it shows in the environment at the school.”

The kids were equally happy to have her at the school.

“The students really got into the One Book, One School program this year! It’s so nice to see all of them excited about reading,” said Jaime Fauver, a Lenape media specialist. “This year’s book really clicked with the whole school, even the staff took to it!”

Jennifer Gaffney, also a media specialist, agreed. “Everyone was talking about it and connecting, which was great because now we all have this common thing to talk about and it feels more like a community. When we got the second book of the “Monument 14” trilogy into the library, all 15 copies were gone in 10 minutes. We don’t even know how the students found out we got them in!”

And to cap it off, Laybourne’s visit was actually a “twist of fate,” according to Strittmatter. After Lenape had chosen “Monument 14”, Anthony Guerrera, a special education teacher at the school, realized he had gone to high school with Laybourne and reached out to her; she then happily agreed to pay a visit.

“We wanted a great read that appealed to all the students, that would get them to love reading, and Monument 14 did that,” said Fauver. “It was absolutely perfect. Everything just fell into place.”