For the next few weeks, elementary schoolers in Knox County will have something in common: they’ll all be reading the same book.
One Book Read City, a program promoted by Mayor Glenn Jacobs and other stakeholders, kicked off Monday as books were sent out to all elementary classrooms in Knox County Schools. It’s all about showing students that reading is fun.
Students in grades K-5 will read “The Chocolate Touch” by Patrick Skene Catling.
A local “celebrity” reader will read each chapter of the book in videos available online to students. Each person was picked because they are recognizable and can bring their shared book to life.
“The Chocolate Touch” was chosen because it is appropriate for all ages.
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The book is a retelling of the King Midas story, but instead of gold, the main character turns everything his lips touch into chocolate — thanks to a surprise coin and mysterious candy shop.
“What I like about this book particularly is it harkens back to classic mythology. It’s a way to bring in classic literature and make it more accessible,” said Mary Pom Claiborne, assistant director of marketing for Knox County Public Libraries.
Knox County Public Libraries have copies of “The Chocolate Touch” so parents can follow along with their kids.
One Book Read City is scheduled to run through May 20. Students get their books on Monday and the hope is to have chapter one read by the end of Tuesday.
The chapter schedule has four days of reading followed by one day for classes to catch up, then repeat until the book is finished.
“When everybody’s reading the same book, you can discuss it at a deeper level,” Claiborne said. “And when you read a book that catches your imagination, you want to talk about it.”
One Book Read City is an expansion of Read City USA, Jacobs’ library project aimed at fostering a love of reading through community support. The program has been in the works for a year, said Knox County Board of Education member Betsy Henderson.
“Our goal of One Book Read City is to encourage dialogue, foster the engagement of reading at home while building a strong community identity,” Henderson said.
Organizers timed the program so kids’ interest in reading is sparked heading into summer break. The last day of school is May 25.
Knox Education Foundation, Jacobs’ office, Knox County Schools and Knox County Public Libraries have contributed to the initiative. Organizers hope to make the One Book Read an annual tradition.
“Schools do a great job of teaching reading, but it is a huge task to affect that third-grade literacy rate,” Claiborne said. “Schools do great, but reading starts at birth. It’s part of a family culture, it’s part of a community culture.”
One Book hopes not only to take the intimidation out of reading but also add some fun. Along with school-specific activities to accompany “The Chocolate Touch,” families can participate in a scavenger hunt.
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Kids can look for chocolate coins at public libraries, Rural Metro fire stations, Weigel’s, Food City, Home Depot and Matlock Tires in Knox County. Other scavenger hunt sites include Bradley’s Homes and Gifts, the North Broadway Chick-Fil-A, Knoxville Chiropractic Solutions, Burns Printing, Commercial Bank in Powell and three Dough Joe locations (Panthers, Beavers and Admirals).
Students who bring their copy of “The Chocolate Touch” to the Read City USA booth at the Children’s Festival of Reading on May 21 will get a chocolate coin there, too.