When Prep’s English Department decided to launch a One Book, One School project last fall called PrepReads, they did so with the intention of bringing together different members of our community. “We love how this PrepReads project gave us the opportunity to cross grade levels and departments,” shares Dr. Tyke O’Brien, English Department Chair. “It was really great to see the campus come together around conversations—students across grades and sections, parents, faculty and staff.”
All Prep students read George Saunders’ Fox 8 over the summer break. Written from the perspective of a fox who learns to speak “yuman,” the book touches on themes of sustainability, environmental responsibility, language and more. Faculty, staff and parents were also invited to read the very short illustrated hardcover. English teachers incorporated the book into their fall curricula and some faculty in other departments integrated the book’s themes into their lesson plans.
Megan Burton and Patrick Ferry combined Burton’s 10th grade English class and Ferry’s City in Literature 12th grade students for a discussion that focused on gentrification, colonization and the food chain. Jodie Hare and O’Brien prompted their students to write letters in the voice of Fox 8 or in response to Fox 8. The 8th grade students in Erin Peterson’s theater class wrote Fox 8-inspired theatrical monologues.
Dr. Genevieve Morgan came up with the idea of cross-grade pen pals, having her 11th graders write postcards in the voice of Fox 8 to incoming 7th graders in Celeste McMillin’s class, offering advice on Prep life and words of encouragement as new students began their first semester (see photos of some postcard examples, left). Morgan also collaborated with Burton—Burton’s 8th graders exchanged postcards with 9th grade English students.
“Since I teach 9th and 11th grade, I know younger kids love hearing from the older kids and feeling seen. So many of the 9th graders were new to Prep this year, so it was a good way to meet older students, and it was a chance for me to collaborate with other English teachers,” Morgan says.
“The 7th graders were excited and surprised to be acknowledged by the 11th graders. They were enthusiastic about receiving advice about Prep in such a creative, humorous and playful way, including tips for what to order at lunch and words of caution to stay clear of the Senior Patio,” shares McMillin. “Both grade levels successfully emulated the voice of Fox 8, and many students were able to weave relevant themes and other elements of the plot into their postcards.”
These connections that students made with each other, through a book, showed up in club events, activities at Morning Meeting, discussions in science, performing arts or math classes and casual conversations between a 12th grader and an 8th grader.
“PrepReads really speaks to our sense of community and feels like a lively addition to the ways we bring everyone together to kick off each school year with open arms,” says O’Brien. “We also feel excited by how it not only runs connective threads across departments, grade levels and various Prep groups, it also bridges the gap between curriculum and—dare we say—having a great time.”