Nelson County, Virginia
By Bonnie Holliday
Last week students at North Branch School teamed with people across the country in an attempt to break the world record for reading the same book–The Very Hungry Caterpillar–on the same day. The annual event, called “Read for the Record,” is organized by Jumpstart, an organization whose programs help at-risk preschoolers get the “jumpstart” they need for academic success. North Branch School has participated in “Read for the Record” each of the 3 years it has occurred, and each time the school helped break the existing record. This year, the Read for the Record goal was 688,000 readers.
Seventy students at North Branch not only read the beloved story by Eric Carle but also used it as a jumpstart for their own lessons. After the middle school students read one-on-one with the preschoolers, the school’s youngest students made caterpillar-shaped bread with pretzel antenna. Fifth and sixth grade students read to Early Primary class. The five-year-olds then created a paper mosaic replica of the cover art of the book. The students in Primary I took the caterpillar and his appetite with them to math class, where they counted and graphed all the fruits, foods, and leaves that the caterpillar consumed. In the Primary II class emerging and independent reader took turns reading the story to each other. This group was especially excited to read about the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly since they have been caring for and studying monarch caterpillars this fall. To date, 13 monarch butterflies released by the class are now enjoying the gardens at the school. The Junior classes at North Branch read the Spanish version, La Oruga Muy Hambrienta, during Spanish class. According to Head Teacher, Charlotte Zinsser Booth, this activity reinforced known sight words and introduced new words in Spanish to these language students.
“This entire project is a good example of how our teachers integrate lessons and create opportunities for their students to experience a subject on many levels,” said Zinsser Booth. “In this instance, not only are the children joining with thousands of other students across the country as they attempt to break the record, but they are using the book as a springboard for art, science, math and language activities.”
For the students the story was key. Early Primary teacher, Regina Stewart, gathered her class of enthusiastic 5-year-olds in a circle and asked her students what they liked best about reading the book. Several hands shot in the air immediately. “When he turned into a butterfly,” said both Sophie Bridge and Mason Rothenberger. Randall Gardiner liked when the caterpillar got fat. “I liked when we took turns reading with each other,” declared Luke Vance. A lively discussion then ensued as the students debated the funniest food that the caterpillar ate. Factions for salami, chocolate cake were well represented, but in the end the lollipop was declared the funniest food eaten by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.