Read Across SMSD October: Champion the Freedom to Read 

Champion the Freedom to Read
Shawnee Mission School District


Every day in her role at Belinder Elementary School, librarian Wendy Oviatt is able to “Champion the Freedom to Read.” This work is at the heart of the Read Across SMSD theme in October.

“As a librarian, I teach students about anything and everything related to literature,” Oviatt shared. “I help students find books that allow them to explore and learn. I also strive to foster a love of reading that will stay with them for a lifetime!”

Joining the celebration of reading, Kim Hinkle, executive director for the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation and Ed Márquez, Scholarship Shawnee Mission program officer for the Foundation, visited the Belinder library to learn more about the role of elementary school librarians and the books that have a special meaning for Belinder students. The Foundation also champions the freedom to read by providing books from birth (through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library) to the time they graduate by providing Read Across SMSD books to all schools.  

One of the best aspects of Oviatt’s work, she shared, is when she is able to connect a student to a book that has a special meaning for them.

“I know that when students have a personal connection to a book, it is even more likely they will keep reading!” Oviatt shared.

Several students at Belinder recently reflected on books that they found a connection with:

Naomi Oliver especially enjoyed “Planet Earth is Blue” by Nicole Panteleakos.

“Everyone feels alienated at least once in their life and this book shows that you’re not alone in that,” Oliver expressed.

For Miles Kloch, the book “I Am Every Good Thing” made him feel good every time he read it.

“I was really happy to see someone like me in this book,” he added.

The book “The Extra Yard” by Mike Lupica meant a lot to Alex Gedman. He shared that the story tells of someone who sees his friend get hurt and wants to see the friend get better.

“Sometimes you have to do what they were supposed to do when they can't,” Gedman explained.

Ada Nazir felt a special connection to the book “Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o.

“In this book the main character learns to love the color of her skin,” Nazir shared. “My mom is white and my dad is black and I have a mix of both in my skin color. I also like that this book talks about culture.”

October Reading Resources

Read Across SMSD is modeled after the national Read Across America program and is led in partnership with NEA-Shawnee Mission. Access to books for Shawnee Mission students is made possible through the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation.

Here are the Read Across America October titles, encouraging readers to “Champion the Freedom to Read.”

A Land of Books: Dreams of Young Mexihcah Word Painters

By Duncan Tonatiuh

Click here to learn more.

Attack of the Black Rectangles

By Amy S. King

Click here to learn more.

You Can’t Say That: Writers for Young People Talk about Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell

By Leonard S. Marcus

Click here to learn more.

The links above provide activity ideas, discussion ideas, reflective writing questions, and related resources for more titles to try for each age group.

Click here to find out more and participate in Read Across SMSD. 

Post your participation on social media using #ReadAcrossSMSD.

Champion the Freedom to Read