ASHBURNHAM -- Books don't have it easy these days.
With so many newer and louder alternatives, the journey from front cover to back cover has been made all the more complicated by every new TV show, smartphone app and website.
The faculty and staff of Oakmont Regional High School know this all too well, and it's become their goal to put up a good fight in honor of the written word.
On Wednesday morning, the school transformed into something out of a storybook.
Students and faculty roamed the halls in top hats and bomber jackets inspired by Scott Westerfeld's young-adult novel "Leviathan."
The band room received some of the most traffic.
Eager students took their places behind homemade laser turrets on one side of the room.
In the darkness it was hard to see, but soon the room was filled with the sounds of air-raid sirens and Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries."
A spotlight hit the opposite wall, illuminating a monolithic cardboard whale that took up half the room.
The students squealed with joy as they opened fire on the whale with their laser turrets, aiming for a series of targets positioned along the creature's body.
This is how Oakmont capped off its summer reading program.
"Too often in school, kids associate reading with something they have to do and that usually means they lose the joy of reading," said Principal David Uminski. "Our teachers put a lot of work into reminding students that reading can be fun and enjoyable.
A lot of that work started when the school day ended on Tuesday afternoon.
The faculty worked to set up the 21 interactive stations that drew inspiration from "Leviathan," which is set during an alternative history of World War I.
Unlike most traditional summer reading programs, Oakmont's "One School, One Book" program has everyone reading the same book over the course of the summer. Another key difference is that it's not just the students who read the book, but every member of the faculty and staff as well.
"We try to create activities that reach the diversity of the students' strengths and interests," said school librarian Jeff Aubuchon, who coordinates the summer reading program.
"The hardest thing about it is finding something for everyone to get on board with," he said.
The selection process began in February with a list of possible books.
This year, 27 were selected and then vetted based on cost, reading level, availability in libraries, and whether or not it had a movie adaptation.
The faculty whittled the number down to six, then checked back with the students to narrow it down to two possibilities.
From there, students put together arguments for each book, similar to a political campaign, and lobbied other students for which of the two books should be chosen.
By the end of the summer, once everyone had finished the book, every Oakmont student was tested on their knowledge of the text.
"Seventy-three percent of our students passed the reading comprehension quiz and that's our demonstrable way of measuring who's doing the reading," said Aubuchon.
This year's passing percentage was high, but Aubuchon said that past years showed even higher pass rates.
Even if students fail the reading test, they're still allowed to take part in the day's activities.
Each home room sponsors a different activity that includes obstacle courses, robot workshops, and, of course, the "Leviathan" room where students played a home-made version of laser tag with the cardboard whale.
"I think it's great because it makes all the home rooms get competitive. We get to have a lot of fun with this," said Dillon Brotosky of Oakmont's junior class.
As much as it's a day about celebrating books and reading, it's also a way to bring the school together.
"I understand how it's all about getting kids to read, but I think it's also about cooperation and pulling together as a community," said Spanish teacher Audrey Phelps.
"I think this is such a great thing for building culture in the school," she said.