Westerville Division of Fire serve as volunteer readers for Whittier’s Battle of the Books competition

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Whittier Elementary is in the middle of a bracket-style Battle of the Books competition where students watch read-aloud videos of books with their families and in their classrooms. Students then discuss two books and vote for a winner.

Among the volunteers who recorded read-aloud videos for students: members of the Westerville Division of Fire.

In their video, Deputy Fire Chief Mindy Gabriel is settled by a fireplace reading “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson as crew members — including one in full firefighter gear — sit on the floor to listen. 

“We were delighted to be involved and fully support the message of belonging and inclusion detailed in the book I read,” she said.

Whittier’s March Madness-inspired competition stemmed from the building’s equity team, where members discussed enhancing the school’s literacy efforts, Principal A.J. Hoffman said. 

“We hope that students get a sense of excitement about experiencing literature and can have a sense of community with every Whittier student and family having the ability to experience the same texts at the same time,” he said. “We are also excited about our students being immersed in literature that celebrates diverse authors, characters and experiences.”

He reached out to his school staff in search of volunteers for the read-aloud videos. One staff member is married to a firefighter and encouraged Hoffman to connect with Gabriel, who took the idea to her crew. 

Whitter students loved the end result. (Watch the fire department's read-aloud video here.)

“It has been a great experience for them to see our firefighters in a different light,” he said. “All of our readers have done such a fantastic job.”