Hank Murray is just a freshman at Westwood High School, but he already feels like part of the school community, thanks to a WHS reading program called, “One School, One Book”.
“It was an interesting leap from middle school where each grade reads a different book,” said Murray. “This allowed for more communication between grades, classes and clubs.”
This marks the second year Westwood has participated in “One Book, One School”. All 916 students at the high school read the popular young adult book, "Everything, Everything", over the summer, and then had the opportunity to take part in a virtual event with author Nicola Yoon and her husband, David Yoon, who served as illustrator.
“This program allows our entire school to connect and build community through a shared reading experience,” said Westwood High School librarian Theresa Fisher. “We originally talked about starting this program before the pandemic, but didn’t actually start it until last year. After the pandemic, connecting as a school community seemed more important than ever.”
"Everything, Everything" centers around an 18-year-old girl named Maddy, who has led an extremely sheltered life after being diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). The condition means she must remain inside for fear of being infected with everyday germs from the outside world, which could kill her.
“The book was released in 2015 and has since been made into a movie,” said Fisher. “Based on our experiences with the pandemic, we felt like we could all relate to Maddy. She goes to school online and she’s isolated from the world. We believed our students would really connect to her, and they did.”
Fisher was part of a committee made up of students and teachers who read several books over the 2021/2022 school year before settling on "Everything, Everything".
Senior Vivienne Woodard, another committee member, helped coordinate an after-school viewing of the movie the day prior to the author talk.
“I thought it was a good way to bring people together across grades,” said Woodard. “It was good that the book we read had another medium to share. It was a nice way to have everyone come together and refresh and prepare for the author talk the next day.”
About 125 students were able to watch the webinar with the author and illustrator from the school’s Little Theater, while the rest of the school watched from their classrooms. Both groups had the opportunity to ask questions about the book, either live or via the “chat” feature.
Many questions centered around the transition from book to movie.
“The movie showing the day before was really helpful because the authors did get a lot of questions about how the book moved into a movie,” said senior Sienna Horn. “The Yoons had a lot to do with the making of the movie, and asking questions gave everyone a better understanding of all that goes on behind the scenes in this process.”
Fisher has already turned her sights to establishing the committee who will choose next summer’s “One Book, One School” reading.
“It’s a lot harder than you might think,” said Fisher. “It’s quite a process. You’re not just choosing a book for one grade, it’s for the entire school community. The hunt is on to find something we feel the majority of our students can connect with.”