Fifth-grade students throughout Scioto County will be receiving their own copies of the book, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate, as part of the Portsmouth Rotary Club’s collaborative Books Build Bridges Program.
Books will be distributed to every fifth-grade student at Clay, Green, Minford, New Boston, Northwest, Notre Dame, Portsmouth, Portsmouth West, Sciotoville, STEM School, Valley and Wheelersburg school districts.
“Rotary has had a longstanding commitment to literacy projects. We used to give dictionaries to all sixth-graders, and that was a tradition for decades. Then we decided that dictionaries were not as interesting to young people, so we wanted to take the money we used before and commit it to another literacy project. But we needed partners,” said Tess Midkiff, of Portsmouth Rotary and PALS.
The program became a collaborative effort involving Portsmouth Rotary, Portsmouth Public Library, Shawnee State University, Portsmouth Area Ladies (PALS), and South Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ESC). It is sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council, Portsmouth Rotary, Portsmouth Area Ladies, American Association of University Women, Portsmouth Public Library, Shawnee State University, the South Central Ohio ESC, and the Scioto Foundation.
This is a biennial program and in 2018 the book “Not a Drop to Drink” by Mindy McGinnis was distributed to local eighth-graders. After the students read the story, McGinnis gave a presentation for all the students at Shawnee State University’s Vern Riffe Center for the Arts.
This year the students will read “The One and Only Ivan” which is inspired by the true story of a gorilla known as Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla. The real Ivan lived alone in a cage inside the mall for 27 years. As an attraction for the mall, he was on display at all times and was even given paint brushes, paint, and paper to create small paintings that were sold to mall patrons. After public outcry about him living in such a small space he was moved to Zoo Atlanta, where the Assistant Curator of Primates, Jodi Carrigan, took care of him.
“This book was one of two or three that came recommended by school librarians. We wanted to rely on those experts to say what young people would like to read,” Midkiff said. “We selected this one because it had themes of conservation and protection of animals, and a lot of themes we knew young people would relate to. It’s also going to be a Disney movie later this summer. People are going to see this in movie-form, and I think kids will love having already read the book.”
Ivan’s Caregiver Jodi Carrigan will participate in the reading project, as she comes to speak to nearly 1,000 local students at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts March 19.
“The fifth-grade teachers and students here at Clay are so excited to be a part of this project,” said Clay School librarian Cindy Parkes. “The book selected is a moving story and lends itself well to cross-curricular activities. We can’t wait to hear from Ivan’s Atlanta Zookeeper, Jodi Carrigan, in March!”
She said teachers are already planning curriculum that will incorporate the book through reading, science and art.
While the fifth-grade students read and discuss the book in school, book clubs throughout Scioto County will read and discuss the book as well. The public is invited to join Carrigan at the library at 6 p.m. March 19 for her presentation which will be free of charge. Carrigan will also be meeting with Shawnee State University students to discuss primatology and animal conservation.
“I’ve enjoyed being part of bringing this project to life. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our schools and our students and hopefully it will help spark a new interest in reading for some of them,” said Sharee Price, ESC Gifted Services coordinator.
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