Sherman students came together with school children across the state Monday to collectively read a single book with Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett.


The event served as the kickoff for the Texas Reads One Book program, which encourages students, teachers and parents to join together in reading. Students at all Sherman Independent School District elementary schools watched a video of Jason Garrett read the first chapter of a book and read it alongside him. The video and reading were replayed throughout the state with children from other districts reading the book at the same time.


“I think it is going to be a good book to share with your families,” Garrett said following the reading.


Garrett described reading as “unique” as it allows someone to being able to take a trip to exotic worlds without ever leaving one’s home. For this year’s program, Garrett read from “Friendship according to Humphrey”— a story about a classroom pet hamster who is meeting potential new friends at the beginning of a new school semester. The first chapter followed Humphrey as school returned to session for the semester with a new student and a new pet frog joining the class.


All third- and fourth-grade students in the district received a copy of the book to read along with Garrett during the presentation and to read later with family members. Spanish-language copies were provided to Spanish-speaking students and the Sory Elementary Parent Teacher Organization raised funds to provide copies of the book to the first and second grades as well, allowing the majority of the school to participate in the event.


Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent Susan Whitenack said the event, now in its fifth year, was sponsored by the Texas Association of School Administrators. The program expanded on previous, similar programs, including the One District, One Book and One School, One Book initiatives.


“Because every family in participating schools receives a copy of the book, even reluctant readers and parents who don’t normally participate in school activities get involved,” the TASA website states. “Spanish-language copies of the selected book are available for Spanish-speaking families.”


This is the first year that Sherman has participated in the program. Whitenack said the district first started planning for this year’s kick off in November as a way to engage in high quality literature on a district-wide level. Through reading the same book, Whitenack said students would be picking up the same language and vocabulary skills as students in other schools.


“This provides a unique opportunity for Sherman, for sure, and we hope to continue it in the future,” she said.


Beyond Monday’s kickoff, Whitenack said teachers will lead the students in reading the remaining chapters of the book over the next few weeks, with one chapter covered each day. This will be accompanied by quizzes and other activities related to the readings.


Garrett has been an advocate and spokesperson for the campaign for several years.


“Whenever you have a celebrity who gives credence and credibility to what we are doing, it helps engage the students,” Whitenack said.


Sory Elementary student Isabella Salafria was among the students who read the book alongside Garrett. While she said she did not know who Garrett was at first, Salafria said having the Cowboys coach read made the experience interesting.


“I liked it and think it is an interesting book,” she said. “I like how Humphrey isn’t really complaining about Og the frog and is just trying to get used to him.”


Michael Hutchins is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com or @mhutchinsHD on Twitter.