John Hoffman showing students his flight helmet

For the third year in a row, the Weston Middle School in the Athena-Weston School District sponsored a One School, One Book project.  The purpose of the project is to encourage enthusiasm around reading with an emphasis on nonfiction topics. This year all 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th-grade students and teachers read the novel, Ground Zero by Alan Gratz. The novel tells the story of Brandon, a child trapped in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and of Reshmina, a girl growing up in war-torn Afghanistan eight years later. The students seemed to really love reading this book this year as in previous years they have read another book from this same author, Alan Gratz. The Athena Library Friends Association donated funds so that each student in the school could have his/her own hardback copy of the book.

The school’s One School, One Book event took place on April 1st. The day began with a guest speaker, Chief Warrant Officer 3, John Hoffman of the Army National Guard. He has been in the service since 2001 and has been deployed on 5 tours of duty: three tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. His first tour was in 2005 and his most recent tour was just a few years ago in 2020. Mr. Hoffman also read Ground Zero. In his presentation, he described his experiences overseas and compared them to the experiences of the book’s characters. The students enjoyed hearing a first-person perspective related to the novel. The students even got to see his Chinook flight helmet.

After the speaker's presentation, the students broke into multi-aged groups to view a slideshow presentation. They then participated in small group discussions about the book. In the afternoon, the students completed a writing performance task designed to hone their expository and persuasive writing skills. Weston Middle School staff and students really enjoy reading a common book and look forward to next year's selection!