Every student in our school reads the same book, author or Jewish value-themed text. Working across grades and disciplines, students develop projects synthesizing ideas related to these texts from Art, Music, Judaic studies, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies. Most years we have found a partner school to widen our students' horizons and deepen their understanding of the theme or value being studied.
“All-School-Read” Programs at Rockwern Academy
Julia Weinstein, Librarian
Elaine Kaplan, 5th-8th grade Language Arts Teacher, Assistant Principal
Rockwern Academy, the Jewish day school of Cincinnati, Ohio
Rockwern Academy’s All-School-Read programs began with a seed that grew into a huge tree branching in many directions. Julia Weinstein, the school librarian at Cincinnati’s Jewish day school, and Language Arts teacher Elaine Kaplan were discussing Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea. Then Ms. Weinstein learned the book had both a young adult version and a picture book companion, Listen to the Wind. The two considered the possibility of sharing the book and its messages of tolerance and education with the entire school, from Pre-K to 8th grade, across all disciplines, from Language Arts to Music to Art to Judaic Studies. Then the two wondered if the book could serve as the basis of a community outreach program.
Ms. Weinstein and Ms. Kaplan met with Umama Alam, the principal of the International Academy, Cincinnati’s Muslim day school, and proposed that both schools read the book and then have the Jewish and Muslim students meet each other. The students began their relationship with hand-written pen pal letters, eventually meeting each other, visiting each other’s schools, and exchanging gifts that they had made in their respective Art classes. By that time, news about the Jewish/Muslim children’s outreach program was attracting attention throughout the region, including newspaper and broadcast news coverage. Both schools were invited to sing songs of peace together at Cincinnati’s Music Hall. They sang during a Martin Luther King Day program to a standing ovation. They sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a Cincinnati Reds game, and both schools collected funds to help students in war-torn countries.
The next year, Ms. Weinstein and Ms. Kaplan launched a second All-School-Read around Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, by President Obama, featuring 13 American heroes. This time, Rockwern partnered with an inner city school, Pleasant Hill Academy, which had an almost entirely African-American student body. The integrated curricula included writing essays about personal heroes and designing book covers. Again, students from both schools exchanged visits. At PHA, they met Chuck Harmon, the Cincinnati Red’s first African-American ballplayer. At Rockwern, the book’s illustrator, Loren Long, talked to the students about his artistic process.
In 2012, the All-School-Read featured Jewish folktales, featuring a collection of Jewish folktales, The Hungry Clothes by storyteller and performer Peninnah Schram. The upper grades learned the art of storytelling and puppet making, performing stories from Ms. Schram’s book to younger students. The entire school participated in making hand puppets for hospitalized children in South Africa. Ms. Schram travelled to Cincinnati to perform at the Rockwern/PJ Library’s collaborative event, “Celebration of the Book,” as public librarians came to Rockwern to fill the day with stories and puppet making.
In 2013, Rockwern Academy partnered with the Agnon School in Cleveland, Ohio for all-school reads of one author, Kathryn Lasky. Ms. Lasky has written a wide variety of books, including several with Jewish themes, both fiction and non-fiction, for every age and reading level. Students at both schools discussed their books with each other and Ms. Lasky on a website created by Ms. Kaplan. Many of Ms. Lasky’s books were featured at the Rockwern/PJ Library event, “Sharing Stories, Generation to Generation.”
In 2014 and 2015, Rockwern focused on Jewish values, Kavod in 2014 and Tzedakah in 2015. Rockwern collaborated with PJ Library and Cedar Village, a retirement community built on Jewish values.
The All-School-Read has become a Rockwern institution, integrated into every classroom across many subjects, unifying the school around an innovative reading program and providing a unique opportunity for Day School students to meet and learn with students from a variety of backgrounds.