First there was Oprah’s Book Club. Now comes Booth Hill Elementary School’s Big Read.

After weeks of hints about a ‘big reveal’ at the school, students cheered when they learned at a spirited, Feb. 28, school assembly that they will be reading the same book together: The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney.

“I’m so excited about the book!” said second grader Hope Ivanovich, 7. “It was an awesome surprise!”

Teachers, school personnel and parents will read the award-winning book along with students.

Cheryl Pontonio, a fourth grade teacher at Booth Hill, approached Principal Dana Pierce about doing a One Book, One School-type program because her children had participated in a similar, successful program at their school.

“I thought it would be a great way to bring the school together and encourage reading at home, as well as discussions among the students about the book,” says Pontonio. “We decided as a team to read The World According to Humphrey, because it’s a cute book that can capture the attention of a child in grades K through 5. Plus, it is a series, so we hope that many of the children will continue on to reading some of the other Humphrey books.”

“They had wonderful guesses about the big reveal,” says Pierce. “Everything you could imagine. I heard, ‘Mr. Pierce is going to shave his head bald.’ I also heard, ‘Mr. Pierce is going to dress up as Santa Claus and hand out presents to everyone,’ and that, ‘We’re going to get our February break back.’”

After students found out which book they were going to read, they watched a personalized, videotaped message from the author, who took them on a tour of the Southern Californian office where she created her best-selling series of books about an endearing hamster who is always ready to help others.

Booth Hill won’t just be reading a chapter a night at the same time. To keep students excited about the program, the school will host spirit days and ask a “trivia question of the day,” with prizes awarded to students, says Pontonio. Students are also being asked to bring in pictures of themselves reading the book in an “interesting place,” which will be displayed throughout the school, she says.

“This is like having one huge book club at Booth Hill,” says Pierce, who said yes to the program as soon as he heard about it. “I think this will get kids reading lots of other books.”