The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Visit From Celebrated Children's Author Headlines Best Book Week Yet

The TASIS Elementary School celebrated its third annual Book Week during the week of April 9–13, with each day featuring activities designed to build enthusiasm for reading and writing.

The week kicked off with a special assembly on Monday, in which Book Week coordinators Alyssa Uecker (Elementary Librarian) and Erin Fitzgerald (Literacy Coordinator and English Language Arts teacher) generated excitement for the week by discussing the upcoming events, showing last year’s amazing Book Week video, and calling upon the acting talents of Elementary School teachers Melody Tibbits Zanecchia, Giorgio Volpi, Susanna Zangheratti, and Matthew Frazier-Smith, who dressed up as different stereotypical characters and ran an interactive quiz show called “Wait Wait...I Know That” (a parody of National Public Radio’s “Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me).

See more photos from Bruce Hale’s visit on the TASIS SmugMug page.

Acclaimed children’s author Bruce Hale visited on Tuesday and delighted three different groups of students with his energetic presentations in the Palmer Center. Mr. Hale explained the various stages of the writing process, traced his own development as a writer, and emphasized the importance of exploring one’s interests though writing.

“Hearing from a published author about his own process validated the work students are doing in class and made their own work seem more authentic,” said Ms. Fitzgerald, who this year has implemented a new writing workshop in grades K–5 that focuses on persuasive, narrative, and expository writing. “His visit was the major highlight and brought together the key elements we hope to accentuate during Book Week—a love of reading, a love of writing, and a celebration of the stories that connect us.”

Mr. Hale, who concluded each presentation by signing copies of his books for students, shared the very first book he ever worked on to help underscore his principal message: If you have a dream and enough perseverance, you will accomplish it—even if you get sidetracked along the way.

“Everybody really appreciated his presentation,” said Ms. Uecker. “He effectively drew upon his past as an actor and really connected with the students. They were very inspired to see where he started and where he is now.”

Wednesday was Read Aloud Day. Each class read We’re All Wonders (the illustrated version of the book the film Wonder is based on) and then had a discussion about kindness, the theme of this year’ Book Week.

Thursday was Family/Community Read Day, in which parents and members of the TASIS community visited classes all over campus and read books of their choice to students.

Friday was both Book Character Day (students were encouraged to dress as their favorite character) and Drop Everything and Read Day, in which students stopped what they were doing at 14:30 and gathered in the Palestrina or the Focolare lunch room (due to rainy weather) to spend 30 pleasant minutes reading.

See a gallery of photos from Drop Everything and Read Day on the TASIS Smugmug page.

Ms. Fitzgerald, who experienced her first Book Week at TASIS last year, was very pleased with how the week turned out this year.

“We continue to see an uptick in students’ enthusiasm for reading,” she said. “And having Bruce Hale add a writing component to go along with all the excitement around reading really helped take things to a new level.”

Ms. Uecker, who has run both the Focolare (Pre-Kindergarten through grade one) and Hadsall (grades 2–5) libraries since 2013, is always looking for ways to expand the two libraries’ collections, which currently number approximately 8000 titles. She has recently focused on adding greater variety and more high-interest fiction titles and believes the additional choices have contributed to a steady rise in students’ overall interest in reading.

“The libraries are heavily used,” she said. “They are a place for free choice—where a student’s interests matter more than his or her reading level. I firmly believe that children will read more if they are provided easy access to books, have the freedom to choose, and are given time to discover the pure joy that comes with devouring a good story.”

Both Ms. Uecker and Ms. Fitzgerald have also frequently observed students sharing books amongst themselves and suggesting titles to their friends. “It’s been heartening to see the Elementary School evolve into a true community of readers,” said Ms. Fitzgerald.

Students created posters based on their favorite characters from Mr. Hale’s books in advance of his visit.
Grade two created this excellent poster in honor of Sid the Squid from Clark the Shark.

With a full-time librarian, a literacy coordinator, two burgeoning libraries, an instructional book room with more than a thousand level readers, the use of the Journeys Reading Series to the Language Arts Program, small-group and individualized reading instruction provided in the classroom on a daily basis, the establishment of Book Clubs in the higher Elementary School grades, two Usborne Book Fairs hosted on campus each year, Scholastic orders placed for students several times each year, visits from renowned children’s authors (Rosemary Wells will come this May), and creative initiatives such as Book Week, TASIS continues to help its Elementary School students, who come from all over the globe with varying levels of English, improve their reading levels at a rapid rate.

The empirical data confirms the anecdotal evidence cited by Ms. Uecker and Ms. Fitzgerald, as TASIS Elementary School students continue to perform well above the worldwide average on the Reading section of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, which they take several times each year.

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