Irving interweaves families’ stories through “One Book, One Family” club

Irving Middle School is connecting its students and families one book at a time. 

The school’s “One Book, One Family” book club meets monthly in the evening allowing the Aardvarks to build bonds inside and outside the classroom through literature. Irving parent and co-president of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) Nichole Palmer and her eighth-grade daughter Edie have been involved for three years. 

“I love meeting the other families,” Palmer said. “I love that Edie and I are able to have a connection of sharing this book and reading it, and we do discuss it at home as well as discussing it here in the group. I just think it's a great way to stay connected with my student.” 

Irving librarian Jenn Cejda helps lead the club. It's been a longstanding Irving tradition, but she’s been organizing it since she joined the school in 2011. Each month, Cejda picks a new title for the families to dive into, which equals six different books a year.  

The club is open to all Irving families from grades 6 to 8. Cejda believes that this inclusion is essential to the positive experience, which helps students make friends throughout the school. 

“I feel like it's just bringing us closer together and we're making more friendships,”  Edie said. 

So far this year, the club has covered topics such as sustainability, body image, book censorship and the Holocaust. Cejda said she strives to choose books that would create good discussion and encourage exploration of various genres.

“It helps me understand more of what I do like to read and what I don’t like to read,” Irving seventh-grade student Koen said. 

He and his mom Lori Von Scheliha participate in the club. The family got involved when the oldest child attended Irving. Koen and Lori said the experience helped bring them together in a new way. 

“It has allowed me to spend some one-on-one time and share with them being big readers,” Von Scheliha said. 

“Parents don't always get the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities with their students,” Cejda said. “This club gives parents and students the opportunity to participate together by reading the same book. This leads to a sharing of thoughts, opinions and conversations because they are having the same experience through literature.” 

Cejda also tries to bring the books to life with unique presentations. Some past examples include her inviting fencers to discuss the world of fencing and a speaker from a local Indigenous group to share Native American heritage. Participants mentioned how much they appreciate the diversity of books that they read during the club, widening their literary tastes and understanding of different topics. 

“Another thing that I love about Mrs. Cejda and this club in general is it's very inclusive,” Palmer said. “She wants us to read books that people can see themselves in the book, and I think that's pretty awesome.” 

“It doesn’t seem like any topic is off limits,” Von Scheliha said. “It’s like just a safe environment now to share ideas and encourages kids to be challenged in their thinking, but feel safe to share their own ideas.” 

Community is one of the biggest aspects of Irving’s “One Book, One Family” club. Cejda aims to create a family atmosphere with each gathering by providing dinner. Irving Principal Rachael Kluck-Spann said she believes these relationships forged through the club are key to the school’s culture. 

“These connections to school are pivotal because the more adults students have in their lives to provide guidance, support and care equates to a caring school community,” Kluck-Spann said.

“I really hope that both students and parents gain a new love of reading for pleasure by having this time to explore different types of literature,” Cejda said. “I hope they gain a greater understanding of each other as they listen to discussions and diversity of opinions offered. Mostly, I just want to give them time together.” 

Irving provides the books for the families through donations from the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools. The families are welcome to keep the novels or donate them to the school’s library.


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Published: March 22, 2024, Updated: March 22, 2024

Irving's One Book, One Family club poses with their latest novels.