Read Across SMSD March: Play With Stories

Read Across SMSD March: Play With Stories
Shawnee Mission School District

During the month of March, Read Across SMSD encourages all of us to play with stories.

There are so many ways we all can interact with the stories we read, whether we are parents or children, students or teachers, young or old. Reading together, telling stories, acting out stories, and writing stories can help everyone to learn and grow.

This month’s featured book at the elementary level is “Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston.” It is a biographical book that highlights how listening to, creating, and telling stories made Hurston a brilliant “storycatcher” and succeed.

Dr. Leigh Anne Neal, chief of early childhood and sustainability, joined Pre-Kindergarten students across the district to highlight how interacting with stories through play supports learning. Click here to see a video.

In Tina Huntsinger’s Pre-Kindergarten classroom at Brookridge Elementary, students have been reading numerous books about transportation and cars. They recently opened an auto shop in their classroom, using a variety of materials to imagine and act out a fully operational repair center. These students have been busy installing batteries, changing the oil, rotating wheels, and getting customers on the road.

“Play is an essential component of early learning – through imaginative play, these Pre-K students have been tuning up a car to take us all on a journey to see how books are inspiring storycatchers all across the Shawnee Mission School District,” Neal shared.

For example, Cali Newell and her Pre-Kindergarten students at Shawanoe Elementary recently read the book “Ella Sarah Gets Dressed.” This story tied into a recent activity where students dressed up and held a tea party, just like the characters in the book.

At Nieman Elementary, students in Amber Pagan’s classroom were inspired to get creative with paints after reading the book “And Away We Go.” They used their artistic expression to paint hot air balloons, just like the one in the book..

Books selected by the National Education Association (NEA) this month for all ages were chosen to help “inspire readers with all kinds of stories, the art of storytelling, and authors and poets who tell stories well.”

March Reading and Learning Resources

Read Across SMSD is modeled after the national NEA Read Across America program and is led in partnership with NEA Shawnee Mission. Here are Read Across America’s March titles, encouraging everyone to “Play With Stories.”


“Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston” by Alicia D. Williams.

Click here to learn more

Middle Grade:

“We Belong” by Cookie Hiponia Everman

Click here to learn more.

Young Adult:

“With a Star in My Hand: Ruben Dario, Poetry Hero.” By Margarita Engle

Click here to learn more.

The links above provide activity ideas, discussion, and reflective writing questions, related resources and more titles to try for each age group. Shawnee Mission School District librarians have also provided a list of similar book titles related to the theme. They can be found on this webpage.

What is Read Across SMSD?

Read Across SMSD is a celebration of reading across our community. We encourage reading for all ages across the SMSD in support of our district academic goals and our strategic plan belief that our community’s strength is derived from its diversity. Click here to find out more and participate in Read Across SMSD. Post your participation on social media using #ReadAcrossSMSD!