Oak Creek Five-year-old Brooke Green sat in a chair across the table from Routt County Fair Queen Kaylee Myers, engaged in a deep conversation about word relationships. Green was learning, but all she knew was that she was having fun.
That seemed to be the case for all in attendance at South Routt County's first-ever "Literacy Carnival," held Thursday evening at the South Routt Elementary.
"The kids get a sense that you can play with words and play with reading and letters, and have a good time and yet learn while you're doing it," program creator and teacher Gay Linke said. "And I hope the parents can see just how easy it is to incorporate reading into their kids' everyday lives. This is about giving back to the community."
Children from preschool to fifth grade packed the gymnasium for a variety of activities held in 24 learning booths.
More than 1,000 new books were there for the taking -- for free. Students played games that earned them coupons, which could be exchanged for the books.
Many sponsors provided more than $1,400 for the books and other prizes like pens, pencils and erasers, Linke said.
"I was surprised," Linke said. "This is my fifth year teaching in this community, and the response for the Literacy Carnival was just wonderful. I started thinking, 'do they have fund-raisers all the time?' It has really been incredible."
Children moved from booth to booth, playing games like fishing for words and matching parts of speech to picking synonyms and antonyms in hopscotch and Twister. Some students even designed a racecourse for a remote control car that required the driver to talk through tangling tongue twisters at different stopping points.
First-grader Jessica Miller said learning about simple machines like pulleys and inclined planes was the neatest thing, proving that students got to learn about more than just words and word relationships, but also science and math.
Some children were problem-solving as they talked about how many coupons they had to win to get the books they wanted.
Volunteers from all over helped out, including some of the older students from Soroco Middle School and high school.
Eight-grader Ron Nielson represented Routt County 4-H by supervising a literary version of Twister.
Students spun the wheel and when the arrow pointed to a word, they had to pick either a synonym or antonym.
For all the students to be successful at the carnival, the volunteers have been asked to help out the ones who need it.
"We've set it up so if you play, you win," Linke said.
South Routt Elementary School Principal Troy Zable along with Linke said getting the parents involved was also a great aspect of the Literacy Carnival.
"There is a great sense of pride bringing your parents into your school building," Linke said. "The kids can say, 'hey, watch me do this.'"
Parent Susan Rossi said the school has always had a great deal of parent involvement.
"This is more for the kids," she said. "This is a big push for literacy, because it shows kids reading can be fun."