Oakland Schools finds happily-ever after in canceled event

March is Reading Month is celebrated in classrooms across Oakland County districts. It promotes early childhood reading and aids in the Michigan Department of Education’s goal of every student reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

However, anyone who has witnessed a child excitedly receiving a new book for the first time knows there is an unspoken connection that ignites between the child and the book. No matter how old or young, receiving a brand new book will always have a positive impact on the student.

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Oakland Schools Superintendent Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson is intent on capturing this joy, all while honoring the mission of March is Reading Month through hosting an annual event known as Oakland County Reads. This event brings kindergarten students in Oakland County together with state officials, educational partners and community members, who have volunteered to read to the children.

Oakland County Reads 2018 was scheduled to take place on March 2, but was unfortunately canceled the day before due to the ever-changing Michigan weather. As the project lead for the event, I was saddened to disappoint 374 eager kindergarten students. My efforts in planning the perfect reading experience for students and guest readers was ruined by an uncontrollable factor.

Logistically, it was not difficult to plan, however the event was very detailed. A total of 17 classrooms from 14 districts within Oakland County were registered. State legislators, lawyers, board members, etc., were amongst the 26 confirmed. Scholastic sponsored a total of 500 books to distribute to students that were Zoo Buddy themed. Animal crackers and water were ordered and each classroom was set to leave with a zoo mask activity, coloring sheets, stickers and a brand new book for each student.

Once the calls were made and the cancellation email was dispersed, it was time to think of a back-up plan. But wait! On March 2, the weather actually changed for the better and the sun was shining. We had one district that did not receive the cancellation email! I was out of the office, but my department, Communication Services, along with a host of Oakland Schools employees from various departments stepped up and granted those students an amazing morning of reading and activities!

I began to send each district their packages through our inter-office mail. Then our director of Communication Services at Oakland Schools, Amanda Holdsworth, suggested I personally visit some of the districts and deliver them their new books. I immediately thought, “It’s the perfect idea!” I scheduled visits with the following districts: Farmington, Ferndale and Southfield and invited our sponsor Scholastic to attend.

As each visit commenced, we read a book, distributed snacks and handed each student their new book! Witnessing the joy on each student’s face and the delight in each teacher’s eyes was priceless! Many photos were taken by our Communications staff and lots of laughs filled the air as students reacted to the cold books (which sat in my car overnight). It made me realize why we celebrate reading, why our superintendent started the event and why the event was a joy to plan. It’s all for the students!

Oakland Schools services the 28 districts of Oakland County in many capacities, but I believe our greatest service to students is the care and concern we display through events like Oakland County Reads. Promoting the importance of reading at an early age fosters an endless amount of opportunities for success in their lives. Dr. Suess said it best, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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As I prepare to plan for next year’s event, I now hold a new perspective on the beauty of it. I clearly understand why each guest reader agrees to volunteer their time and why Scholastic sponsors each book. Oakland County Reads invites us to celebrate the opportunities that lie between the pages of each book and offers each student a chance to make a connection with reading at an early age. Thank you to all that participated, offered their time and resources and ultimately made Oakland County Reads a great success after all.

Crystal Foster is the Communication Services department/project coordinator at Oakland Schools.

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