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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Read for the Record, Lakewood Elementary, and Maybe Something Beautiful

By Daniele Berman, Communications and Events Manager

For the past several years, we have participated in Read for the Record, an annual event organized by Jumpstart that aims to set the record for the largest number of people reading the same book on the same day, all toward the goal of highlighting the importance of building early literacy and language skills for EVERY child. It is always an exciting event, and we have had so much fun thinking of creative ways to engage more of our community and our students in the event each year.

But when I saw this year’s Read for the Record selection, Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez, I knew we had an opportunity to do something so much bigger than we ever had before. The book tells the story of how one little girl’s love for creating art brings a community together to create something beautiful, bringing about change and magic in a way that only art can. Could we partner with one of our schools to create something beautiful together?

I called James Hopkins, principal of Lakewood Elementary and enthusiastic fan of Book Harvest (actually, if you know Mr. Hopkins, you know he’s enthusiastic about LOTS of things!). Lakewood has been a Books on Break partner for several years, it is a near neighbor to our Rockwood headquarters, and it is located in an active and supportive community. I ran my crazy idea by him, and he was as enthusiastic as I was. So he reached out to Ben Hamburger, a local community artist, and he, too, caught the bug. The PTA president, Arton Ragsdale, a committed Lakewood parent and art enthusiast himself, was the next to get excited. Over the course of just a couple months, we had a plan. Maybe, just maybe, it really would be beautiful.

On Thursday, October 25, 469 students, faculty, and staff members read Maybe Something Beautiful at Lakewood. We made sure each classroom had its own copy of the book (in Spanish where it was helpful, too!), and Mr. Hopkins and I talked with the students at an all-school assembly about the story, exploring themes and ideas and talking about what the whole thing meant for Lakewood. Meanwhile, the students had been watching all week as the brick wall along the sidewalk near their bus circle was being transformed…and on Friday, October 26, they helped complete that transformation. You should definitely watch this 2-minute time-lapse video with your sound on to get the full effect:

Each student, faculty member, and staff member was invited to contribute his or her bulldog pawprint to the school’s beautiful new mural. We also had school board members, parents, and even Mayor Schewel stop by to make their mark! And now, every morning, the students are greeted by their happy school mascot and their collective artwork — and each person who walks by that mural each day can find his or her pawprint in the design!

Mira, the main character in the book and the artist who inspired it all, asks in the book what good a splash of color can do in a city of gray. Ask anyone at Lakewood who braved the gray, rainy day last Friday, and they’ll tell you about something beautiful indeed.

Special thanks to Tisha Powell at ABC-11 for stopping by to add her pawprint and share the news of our mural!

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