Saturday, November 22, 2003
It's not every day that fifth-grader Myranda Hassig is allowed to wear her pajamas to school, let alone bring her favorite stuffed animal, a pink pig named Frederick.
Then again, it's not every day she gets to curl up with a pillow and a blanket in the gymnasium, either.
Hassig and nearly 200 of her schoolmates at Yampa Elementary School kicked off the school's "Reading Challenge" on Friday with popcorn, a lofty goal and, of course, books.
Principal Troy Zabel started the program during the 2001-02 school year in an effort to encourage kids to read more outside of school, and the Reading Challenge has evolved each year since.
Last year's challenge motivated students to read a schoolwide total of 200,000 pages, which they accomplished. Milestones along the way allowed the students to witness their principal kiss a pig, get hit in the face with pies, get duct-taped to a wall and even wear a dress to school.
"It's worth it to get them to read, within limits," Zabel said with a smile Friday.
This year's challenge is for the school's 195 students in grades kindergarten through sixth to read -- outside of school hours -- at least 20 minutes each afternoon or evening. For every 20 minutes that students read, they are asked to color in a box on a tally sheet. Every 140 minutes of reading equates to one mile in the school's goal to "travel" across the country from San Diego to Portland, Maine. The distance -- 3,140 miles -- will be reached once the students read for 435,120 minutes.
As in previous years, milestones along the journey include an afternoon of movies once the school "reaches" Amarillo, Texas, a professional makeover for Zabel once they reach Dayton, Ohio, and an opportunity for each student to sink Zabel in a dunk tank when they reach their final destination.
"It's a pretty high challenge for you guys, but it's one I know you can do," Zabel told the gym full of students. "Can you do it?"
"Yeah!" was the resounding reply.
"It really charges them up," Zabel said about the challenge. "They really get into reading."
Fifth-grader Alexandra Redmond took advantage of the two hours of reading time Zabel offered the students Friday afternoon by curling up with her favorite pillow, cow pajamas and Beanie Baby.
"It helps us get more into reading so when we grow up, we'll read a lot," Redmond said before admitting her favorite part of Reading Challenge is watching her principal do crazy things once each milestone is attained.
More important for the school and its students, Reading Challenge is improving the literacy skills of the children, Zabel said.
Combined with some of the school's other reading programs such as the Literacy Carnival, South Routt School District elementary reading scores rose dramatically on the Colorado Students Assessment Program test over the past couple of years.
"This challenge work really makes a difference with their reading," Zabel said.