Matthew Paterson is More Than a Building

Each school day, Matthew Paterson Elementary School Principal Jennifer Darling stands near the front door and greets the students as they come to school.  

“Good morning,” she says. “Welcome to school. Have a great day.”  

Some children stop to chat, some smile in reply, and others simply rush on to their friends and teachers. 

To Principal Darling, the important thing is that the children sense that school is a supportive, nurturing community where they are cared for and safe.  

So, she set out to read the book “School Is More Than a Building,” by Kelley Donner, to every class in every grade at Matthew Paterson Elementary. The picture book, written by the popular children’s book author when her children returned to school after being at home during the pandemic, shows the importance of social connection.   

Darling started reading the picture book to the fourth grade and is working her way down through the other grades. On a recent morning, she visited Michele Love’s third grade class.    

“My school is made of bricks,” the book begins. “It has many windows and two big front doors ... but my school is more than just a building.”  

Halfway through Darling’s reading, the children started chiming in. “My school is more than a building,” they chanted.  

Then the principal continued:  

“It’s a place where I feel welcome ... In the morning, my principal greets me with “hello.”  

“I greet you with hello each day,” Darling said. “Here in Matthew Paterson, we have a big building, and we have big windows outside, but there is so much that goes on inside. 

Then she asked the children to list some of the things that make Matthew Paterson more than a building. Hands went up throughout the class.  

“We make friends,” said Emma.  

“We have teachers who care about us,” said Zoe 

Leonardo said that he, like the character in the book, feels grateful for the people who care about him in school.  

“I wanted to read this book to all the students, so you know how much we care about all of you,” Darling said to the class. “It shows how kindness and caring make us all part of a community.”