Count Me In: A Novel Start to the School Year

November 8, 2022

At Colleen & Gordie Howe Middle School, we start the year with school-wide read-aloud. The goal for our read-aloud is to engage students in meaningful and relevant conversations and to foster a deeper sense of school community. This year, the staff selected “Count Me In” by Varsha Bajaj. The story follows two unlikely friends that are brought together, to both of their surprises. Unfortunately, a racially motivated assault happened to them and one of their grandparents. The two friends are determined not to let hate win, and they learn the positive power of social media to support one another and come together as a community. The characters find their voices and bring about caring and compassionate change in their school. 

As our classes read the novel, classrooms started creating trees of positive and affirming messages on their doors. Two of the messages that are woven throughout the novel are We Belong and Count Me In.  These two themes started our school year. Our staff inquiry this year is, ‘how can we improve our students’ sense of belonging and connectedness at school?’. We will be working on different strategies throughout the year to continue to develop that sense of belonging and connectedness to Howe Middle.   

Our first school-wide House Team challenge embraced these themes from the novel, and our students set out to leave positive messages of encouragement and belonging around our school and the MRC skatepark.  The chalk art covered the sidewalks with messages like: “Believe in Yourself,” “Be Patient with Each Other,” “Be Kind,” “No hate here,” and “You are amazing.” 

Good stories are powerful learning tools.  Using a read-aloud allows us the creative space to engage in open conversations about timely and important topics for our students.  With a good book, our students and staff have a shared experience that can keep that conversation going.

Colleen & Gordie Howe Middle