Mantua – Students and staff at Crestwood Intermediate School got a huge surprise during the One Book One School (OBOS) final assembly last Friday. Erica S. Perl, Washington D.C.–based author of When Life Gives You O.J., surprised the school by joining the assembly in person, instead of via Skype, as originally planned. Mrs. Perl, who also works for the First Book charity, an organization that provides access to new books for children in need, was honored by the way the school embraced her book, and amazed by the wonderful ‘practice dogs’ they created. She was also deeply touched that CIS students decided to support her favorite charity – First Book — through the OBOS service project, as well.

As Perl assisted, CIS School Counselor Gary Traveny, Enrichment Educator Sarah Isler, and Principal Mike Maglionico, presented funds collected by CIS  — a grand total of $1,320 — enough money to buy 500 new books for K-5 students at David Hill Community Learning Center (CLC) in Akron. Jackie Hogue, School Counselor from David Hill CLC, was overwhelmed by the Crestwood students’ generous gift for her school’s kids. “Ninety percent of our students are in the free lunch program, so the money is just not there at home for ‘luxuries’ like books.” Hogue gushed, “You just can’t believe what these books will mean to our kids – thank you so much!”

The funds were earned through donations and raffle ticket sales. Students earned or purchased tickets for prizes including two bikes from Eddy’s Bike Shop in Stow, stuffed animal dogs, and tennis equipment. CIS students Kelsey and Hunter won the bikes, while Natalie, Anna and Madison each won a stuffed dog.

At the conclusion of the assembly, Mrs. Perl, the book’s author, served as the Grand Marshall of the bike parade. CIS students decorated their bikes and wore literary themed costumes and paraded around the playground loop shared by Crestwood’s Intermediate and Primary Schools. Primary school students lined the parade route holding up signs that read ‘fiction’ or ‘nonfiction’, giving them the chance to guess which genre each rider portrayed.

After the parade, Mrs. Perl spent the day at CIS, giving each class an opportunity to meet with her and find out about the life of an author. Since there wasn’t enough time for each student to ask individual questions, Mrs. Perl told students to email her their questions, which she promised to answer.

Friday’s program wrapped up a month of activities designed to “engage community members, students, and their families in reading one literary selection,” explained the event organizer Mrs. Isler. Students read the nineteen-chapter book both at school in class, and at home with their families. Staff also posted audio files of each chapter on the school’s web site so families could listen at home.

Students also had the opportunity to invite an “Ace”, or special person to join them for lunch as school. Around 200 grandparents and other guests joined in that week. The themes explored in the book were also incorporated into other disciplines throughout the building. Students learned tennis in physical education, and worked on art with canine themes in art classes.

In addition, Mrs. McCoy and her dog Chloe came to school to give students the opportunity to read to and visit with a dog. Individual students and classes were encouraged to create their own dog out of a milk jug, inspired by the “practice dog” the main character, Zelly cared for in the book. The winning dog for the third grade was from Mrs. Gardner and Ms. Lehberger’s class. Mrs. Cobb’s class won for the fourth grade, and Mrs. Schmitt’s class won top dog for grade five.

CIS’s One Book One School program was partially funded by a grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. CIS PTO purchased books for each student, faculty and staff at CIS. The program would not have succeeded without the generous support of parent volunteers Janice Simmons and Pete Pruszynski, or the generous donators or the items raffled. Previous OBOS service projects benefitted the Flight 93 Memorial Fund and Akron Children’s Hospital in previous One Book, One School Service projects. For more information on the First Book organization, visit