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From soldiers to softball players: a remarkable community-supported "read"

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School football players ham it up in a photo used by  Thompson Intermediate School, in Houston, to promote its community read. Writes peer facilitator Cory Brunson:

The South Belt Community rallied behind Thompson Intermediate's seventh grade last fall to institute our first School/Community READ.

While searching for a relevant anti-bullying lesson, I found, and knew immediately the book would be a hit with our seventh grade students. Borrowing ideas from the site, I organized our first school community read with great success.

Pasadena Independent School District's Educational Foundation mini-grant program and local businesses provided funds to purchase multiple copies of The Revealers, to provide all students with journals and pencils, and to bring author Doug Wilhelm to our campus.

Through telephone contacts, newspaper advertising, and posters of actual students and community members reading The Revealers, we generated an enthusiasm which brought support from the local newspaper, school board, community college, sheriff's department, churches, Chamber of Commerce, and the 1-149th Attack Helicopter Battalion. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett issued a proclamation declaring November 8 as Thompson School Community Read Day.

The Language Arts department introduced the book to students at a "Reveal How You Feel" pep rally complete with a Revealer skit, reading commercials, upbeat music, and a special telephone message from Mr. Wilhelm. Prizes awarded to students included copies of The Revealers signed with words of encouragement by community members, including a former Miss Texas and members of the 1-149th. During the two weeks that students were reading the book, they were supported by community members visiting their classes or writing letters to them. The local community college's women's softball team visited and gave advice on combating bullying. It was obvious that the community cared about students' well-being.

On the day of the author's visit, the campus buzzed with excitement. Mr. Wilhelm met with all seventh grade language arts classes, and the students were mesmerized by his stories and common-sense approach to life and writing. He brought a sense of purpose to students, and they left the workshop with tools to improve their own writing and, as a bonus, tools to cope with real life situations.

The evening event for parents and community members was the highlight of our project. After a pizza dinner, Mr. Wilhelm addressed the parents and community participants. The evening ended with questions from the audience directed to Mr. Wilhelm and community members who joined him on a panel of experts. The panel consisted of a bank vice president, college soccer coach, newspaper owner, college academic dean, army colonel, PISD executive director, judge, principal, and youth ministers.

During the weeks following the READ, students continued their discussions, journaling, and blogging. Has bullying stopped? No, but everyone has a better knowledge of how to handle it. They also know a new way to reveal the truth ... write about it.

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