Haverhill Promise Promotes Early Literacy, Civics With ‘Book Election’

First-, second- and third-graders across the city cast ballots for the books they'll receive as part of a program through Haverhill Promise. (Courtesy photograph)

The adult voters of Haverhill have spoken to elect a new Mayor, City Council and School Committee—and as it turns out, the children of Haverhill Public Schools have sounded off, too. As part of Haverhill Promise’s first-ever “book election,” first-, second- and third-graders across the city exercised their civic duty and cast ballots for one of three books chosen by Haverhill Public Library staff to encourage early literacy.

Teachers could choose how they wanted to implement civics in the classroom. (Courtesy photograph)

Haverhill Promise plans to give each child in grades 1-3 a book to take home at the end of this month, and to coincide with the election, the group decided to let the students vote as a class on which book they’d receive. First graders could choose from books by Mo Willems, Tedd Arnold or Dav Pilkey, while a National Geographic book about cats and dogs was among the picks for second grade students. Third graders had a chance to pit Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s “Rodrick Rules” against “Judy Moody and Stink” and “Geronimo Stilton” stories.

“It's important to find fun, creative ways to get our students excited about reading. We can't expect kids to read in their free time unless they find enjoyment in reading. We were intentional in engaging the public library, the teachers, the students, administrators, and hopefully our elected officials in the process to help reinforce the important connection that it will "take a village" to raise up strong readers,” Campaign Director Jenny Arndt said.

Once the books were chosen, it was up to teachers at each school to choose how they wanted to implement the idea of civic responsibility into lesson plans. “We hope teachers used the democratic process to help students understand that while we may not get everything we personally look for in a candidate, we can work together to make the best choice for the whole,” Arndt said.

At Tilton School, for example, first graders learned about voting by watching a “Kids Academy” video called “Why Voting Is Important,” Principal Bonnie Atkowiak said.

Classrooms that did not vote on books will receive the book that was declared most popular by other student voters at other schools. In the coming weeks, several city councilors and School Committee members will be delivering the chosen books to students.

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