© 2022 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Santa Rosa Seeks 'Culture Of Literacy' With End-Of-Year Coursework

Courtesy Santa Rosa County School District

The Santa Rosa County School District is launching a new educational program called, One District, One Book. As part of the initiative, every elementary student in the district will be reading from the book, “A Boy Called Bat.” The books were scheduled for distribution to families starting on Monday.

For the students, grade-level, multi-disciplinary assignments stemming from the story will serve as their entire curriculum for the remainder of the school year.

“One District, One Book is all in one,” said April Martin, director of elementary schools. “We’ve got the book. We’ve got the schedule for parents. We have assignments broken down by week.”

Martin says the One District, One Book assignments also are broken down by subject, to include reading (or English Language Arts), Math, Science, and Social Studies.

“The activities included in their work packets are all aligned to the Florida Standards by grade level. So, the work that’s been created is individualized,” Martin explained. “For example, kindergarten students, their work meets kindergarten standards; it is on their level. The same thing goes for first grade, second, third, fourth and fifth.”

According to Martin, district officials decided to pursue a new approach to at-home learning, after receiving a lot of feedback from families struggling with the initial distance-learning configuration.

“One dad in particular (said), ‘I’m working from home now, I have three children. I cannot work with them, or they can’t be online all at the same time. So this helps us having these work packets instead,’” Martin said of the family situation.

She went on to share the story of a mom who’s a healthcare worker, working 12-hour shifts in the ER and not able to be home to monitor her child online or even work with the child on their assignments.

“We realize there are so many different needs among our families,” said Martin.


To help identify more balanced and equitable educational opportunities for students and families to learn at home, the district turned to its director of federal programs, Dr. Karen Barber. 

She says they found the One District, One Book program through the family literacy organization, Read To Them, and ordered some 13,000 copies.

“With our federal funds, we were able to purchase for every student in our school district (all elementary), we were able to purchase “A Boy Called Bat” written by Elana K. Arnold,” said Barber.

“It’s a wonderful book about an elementary age boy, who works with his mother who’s a veterinarian to raise a baby skunk kit.”

Barber pointed out that the book has wonderful themes and lessons related to friendship, social skills, and responsibilities that have been transformed into enriching extension activities for literacy, math and science for families to do together at home. It also builds on the momentum of the district’s STEAM Innovate initiative.

“To make this even more special, and to connect it to our community, we have a variety of guest readers and we’re going on location to where they are in the community, learning about the organization they are with and they’re all animal-related organizations,” Barber said.

This aspect of the program gives the students to find out about other wildlife in the community and about careers that have to do with animals and wildlife. “We’re actually taking a virtual field trip with our students and guest readers.”

Credit Courtesy Santa Rosa County School District
Guest readers from the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station give a big welcome to students and families watching their video.

“Welcome to the science station,” exclaimed an enthusiastic group from the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, in the first guest-reader video.

Wearing a big, red squid hat adorned with large cartoonish eyes, Director Charlene Mauro explains that their coastal classroom teaches dual enrollment marine biology and oceanography to Santa Rosa high school students, who in turn teach younger students who visit on a regular basis.

“Today, I’m joined by Casey Fearon,” said Mauro introducing her team of readers. Fearon teaches 8th grade science at Gulf Breeze Middle School.  

Kaiti Whitmire then introduces herself, “Hi, I’m Kaiti, a former student of the Marine Science station and I volunteer up here. And, this is Nurdle, our African Sulcata tortoise.”

Before Fearon begins reading the book, we learn more about 3-year-old Nurdle and the little plastic pellets that he’s named after.


Then it’s on to Chapter One, “After School.”

“Bixby Alexander Tam stared into the refrigerator trying to decide what to eat. He knew that the longer he took the more energy he was wasting, and Bixby Alexander Tam did not like to waste energy,” the story began.

“Hey everyone, my name is Michelle and I’m the wildlife rehabilitator here at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge. And, today we have one of animal ambassadors, Riley, and she is a striped skunk,” says Michelle Pettis in the video introduction.

Credit Courtesy Santa Rosa County School District
Michelle Pettis, wildlife rehabilitator from the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, reads chapters from "A Boy Called Bat" for Santa Rosa's One District, One Book program.

Before commencing with chapters 3, 4 and 5, Pettis shares more details about Riley’s story and gives some general information about skunks.

“The things about skunks is that they are mammals. They’re also warm-blooded, so they are similar to you and I. They are born alive,” Pettis explained.

Such details seem appropriate for the story of a found skunk in “A Boy Called Bat.”

“Chapter 3, “No Vanilla Yogurt,” Pettis starts to read.

To complete the first week of One District, One Book, the owners of a bee apiary will serve as guest readers for chapters 6 and 7.  A full video schedule and grade appropriate learning packets are available on the district’s website, www.santarosa.k12.fl.us/bat/.

The packets for each level begin with questions to ask before, during and after reading the book. There’s information about skunks and multi-disciplinary activities and worksheets that families can work on together.

Regardless of each student’s age, the district is asking that families read the book out loud together.

“If there is one takeaway, what we’re really trying to achieve here is not just to collect grades or to provide work for kids at home,” said Dr. Barber. “Our goal is to create a culture of literacy in every home in Santa Rosa County.”

Even though there is a web component to the One District, One Book program, and the videos enhance the experience, access to the internet is not required to read the book and complete the coursework.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.