Madison High School staff, faculty and administrators had one last message for students as they left the building for summer break on Friday: READ.
As students left the school by bus, foot or car, employees waved signs and blew whistles not only to mark the end of classes, but also to celebrate the beginning of a new common book project officials hope will unite the community this summer and throughout the coming school year.
"We wanted to have the Madison community- staff, students, and families- to have a connection, a shared foundation that will spark discussions and build relationships," Madison librarian Krissy Ronan said.
All students, parents, and faculty will spend the summer reading "Divergent," a best-selling young adult book by Veronica Roth. It explores the journey of 16-year-olds approaching a coming of age ceremony in which they must choose one of their society's five "factions," based on single virtues: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).
Throughout the summer, those reading will be encouraged to post questions and comments to the project's blog and by tweeting comments, pictures or other creative interpretations @MadLibrary or using the hashtag #divergentmadison on Twitter.
There will be a contest in the fall for pictures tweeted from the furthest distance and for most original photos, among other things, Ronan said.
Roth could also be coming to speak about the book, officials said.
Incoming college freshman at several colleges and universities across the country participate in a similar common book experience; several schools in Fairfax County are following suit, Ronan said, including Madison and Kilmer Middle School, also located in Vienna.
"According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 'Reading is a declining activity among teenagers…the percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period,'" Ronan said. " Statistics like this helped motivate several leaders at Madison to seek creative approaches to encourage our students to read."
At Madison, a committee evaluated several titles and considered many criteria before unanimously choosing Divergent, Ronan said.
"We have selected a book that we believe will have students choosing to read instead of being forced to read," she said.
For pictures from the bus parade, click through the media player above. Keep an eye on the Divergent Madison website for information about email/twitter contests, discussion blog for the summer and upcoming events for the fall.