DSC_1348                                                         Photo by Jocelyn Parker

Written by guest writer Jocelyn Parker, a senior at Kickapoo High School in Viola, Wisconsin, and the daughter of Organic Valley farmer-owners Mark and Rachel Parker.

On Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016, the staff and students at Kickapoo Elementary teamed up with a special task force from a local business, Organic Valley (CROPP Cooperative), to celebrate Read Across America Day through a series of special events.

For many years, the staff at Kickapoo Elementary School have celebrated the birthday of the beloved author, Doctor Seuss, by participating in Read Across America day. Read Across America celebrates the way Seuss instilled the love of reading in young children, and the way he continues to inspire children to read through the legacy he created through his books. The celebration of this day occurs in many forms, like talking about and reading a favorite Seuss book, coloring pictures from the book, and many more; however, this year the staff at Kickapoo wanted to do something above and beyond. Each year, the elementary staff reaches out to local businesses to take part in the days festivities. For example, in 2015, local area firefighters read their favorite stories to the students. These stories could be from any book they chose, as long as it helped portray that reading is important and should be done for fun as well as learning.

“Our goal for our students is to be as successful as possible and community backing only solidifies their achievements,” stated elementary school principal Kimberly Johnson. This year, Kickapoo staff decided to reach out to nearby Organic Valley, because of the way they set and reach their goals (the company recently surpassed a goal of selling one billion dollars of products), their presence in the community, and the overall positive message that the company exudes. 12795163_647981775340545_7754904026356694067_o

On the day of the event, the team from Organic Valley arrived around 8:15 a.m. to help set up for a presentation that the elementary school would be a part of. At 8:30 a.m., the excited students started to fill the gymnasium. When all teams were a go, Principal Johnson, called the students to attention and the day of excitement officially began. After Principal Johnson gave a short welcoming introduction and read a few of her favorite Seuss quotes, one of the team leaders from Organic Valley, Kimberly Frederickson, gave a short presentation on the company that the students were very excited to ask questions about. After introducing what Organic Valley does and why reading is important to CROPPies (a name for people who work at Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative), Frederickson invited Principal Johnson to read a short story, called The Giving Tree, with her. Johnson agreed and the two read an entertaining rendition of the touching story about a boy and a tree.

As a way to get the students excited to read, the staffs at Kickapoo and CROPP planned and performed a parody of the popular song, ‘”Shut Up and Dance With Me,” with the title changed to “Come on and Read With Me.” Students, teachers, administration, and CROPPies all videotaped themselves singing and dancing to parts of the rendition. Some chose to be videotaped reading their favorite books, while others acted out the scene of a sword fight! After all parts were performed, the clips were all put into one video– watch the video “Come on and Read with Me.” The video was a huge effort of cooperation on everyone’s part, and the hard work and time that went into it were undeniable. While watching the video, the students were laughing and singing along, and the teachers and CROPPies were clearly happy to see that their work paid off.12819425_647981682007221_776091483554077634_o

After the video, prizes were awarded to students who participated in coloring and writing contests, and then the classes dispersed to their rooms to begin the next activity. The Organic Valley staff each headed off to a different classroom to talk to the students individually and read ‘Goodness Grows,’ a children’s story written about what goes into the delicious organic milk we drink. During the session, students asked their respective presenters about their jobs at OV, their favorite books, and about what cooperation means to them. Some classes even got the chance to shake a jar of cream until it turned into butter that they got to eat. Near the end of the classroom discussions, Organic Valley string cheese, magnets, pencils, and copies of the ‘Goodness Grows’ book was passed out to the students.

Kickapoo alumna and Organic Valley employee Mickella Geary said, “Organic Valley was so excited and honored to partner with Kickapoo Elementary School on Read Across America Day. We feel reading is a great way to grow young minds, and our employees and farmers had a great time reading to and learning from the students.”12795216_647982342007155_6037577715382988215_o

A common theme throughout the day was the difference each student can make. This theme is summed up perfectly in the following quote by Doctor Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better. It’s not.” Overall, the experience will go down as one for the memory books, and we hope this partnership will continue to flourish so each student can harvest the goodness that is growing out of this enormous achievement of community involvement.

Principal Johnson would like to extend the following message of appreciation to the wonderful team members at CROPP and to the students and family members that make every day cooperation possible: “Thank you to Organic Valley for caring a ‘whole awful lot’ as they demonstrated their support to promote successful life long readers in our students. This was a truly great opportunity for our students to engage in authentic learning and witness the value and purpose for reading, not only as a student, but as they envision their purpose as an adult in society. The perceived ‘shared responsibility’ of today’s youth and their future was evident as the CROPPies and the Panthers cooperated to ‘grow’ billion dollar readers!”

For more information on other events and classroom projects leading up to this Read Across America, visit the Kickapoo Area Schools Facebook page.

Organic Valley is proud to sponsor Kickapoo Elementary for its impact on children’s lives in its local community.