Second grader Iker Contreras couldn’t get enough of “The Lemonade War,” the book that every child at Lakeview Elementary School – from kindergarten through fifth grade – read as part of Lakeview’s One School, One Book event.
Iker discussed the book with his classmates, his family and anyone who wanted to talk about how the characters teamed up to work together toward a goal, even when they didn’t really like one another.
But the part that Iker liked the most, came after the entire school finished the book, which was written by Jaqueline Davies. The best part, he said, was “The Challenge,” in which Lakeview Principal Jennifer Pontillo and several teachers had a Lemonade War of their own.
“It was very crazy,” Iker, 7, said. “It was a race and the torture was when Mrs. Pontillo got bonked over the head with a barrel full of lemonade. That was so funny.”
All of the elementary schools in the Mahopac Central School District have been running similar one book schoolwide reading events for several years now, though each school calls it by a slightly different name and not every school has such a dramatic finish. The PTOs in each school buy the books for the entire school.
The program was a big hit right from the start. Then, during the pandemic, “One School, One Book” went high-tech. Teachers, teacher aides and school staff took turns recording chapters of the book to be placed on a website that the children could access at home. High school students read chapters in Spanish so Lakeview’s English language learners and their families could participate as well. The reading schedule was placed on the website, with chapters assigned to each day. Children and their families were asked not to jump ahead.
Patricia Huestis, Instructional Educational Technology Specialist for K-5 schools, set up the websites.
“During the pandemic, we needed a way to do read-alouds for the kids, so we decided to record teachers reading each chapter,” Huestis said. “It worked really well, and we decided to keep doing it. We Screencastify the book cover and the kids can just sit, listen and concentrate on the voice that’s reading.”
Leigh Galione, Lakeview’s building coordinator and the district’s ENL Chair said sharing one book schoolwide brings the students, teachers, staff families together.
“Our One School, One Book initiative brings our entire school community together,” Galione said. “Parents & guardians can carve out time at night to read to their younger children. Siblings read to each other. Some teachers do chapter read-alouds.“
The reading took place during the month of March, and when every student finished the book, the “OSOB Challenge” was revealed.
The challenge “Jen Pontillo vs. Paws and Friends,” pitted the principal against the school’s special area teachers in a race that involved balancing lemons on spoons, squeezing lemon juice into containers and carrying marshmallows on chopsticks – not to mention a lot of hooting and hollering from the students and teachers who lined up along the route to cheer.
At the end of the race, Pontillo was doused, NFL style, with a cooler-full of lemonade.
“Connecting to each other through common literature is a wonderful, unifying experience,” Galione said. “To have that shared experience culminate in an event that the entire school can witness and participate in was the icing on the cake!”
The challenge sparked such interest in reading that Iker is now reading the second book in the series, "The Lemonade Crime."