Mantua – Studies show that reading to children helps them to listen better, build bigger vocabularies, and get excited about learning. Just imagine the positive results when an entire school reads the same book together. When students and staff at Crestwood Intermediate School read Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, great things happened, and not just for the students themselves.

If you’ve not read the book, the story begins as a simple backyard squirrel suffers a near-tragic accident, and instead develops the super powers of strength, flight, and the ability to type misspelled poetry. Throughout the book, ten-year-old self-described cynic Flora, along with Ulysses, the superhero squirrel, together prove that if you have hope, then anything is possible.

To kick off their special One Book, One School program, superhero guest Valerie Waugaman-Gal, the body builder and local fitness trainer who played “Siren” on the American Gladiators TV show, spoke to students about working hard to reach their goals. Each student received a copy of the Kate DiCamillo book, which was read in class; teachers also worked to incorporate the theme across subject areas.

In addition, classrooms took part in a comic strip challenge, where kids were asked to create a super hero comic similar to the one highlighted in the book. Awards were given to the top vote-winning comic strips by grade level based on use of color, use of characters, and use of dialogue.

Throughout the program, students purchased raffle tickets for a chance to win a stuffed squirrel, adorned with a superhero scarf emblazed with the message, “All things are possible.” Proceeds from the raffle provided 101 of those same stuffed squirrels to patients at Akron Children’s Hospital, as well.

Through the One Book, One School program, reading a book together helped CIS build community among students, parents, and teachers. But this year’s program moved beyond the local community, helping Crestwood kids bring hope to children in Akron that they will most likely never meet. Which is something that would surely qualify as one of those “wholly unanticipated occurrences!” by the book’s main character Flora Belle Buckman.