Nose buried in a book, fourth-grader Sam Zwak stretched comfortably across a blanket in his school's cafetorium and read in silence.
What a difference a month makes.
February was "I Love to Read Month" at Christian Heritage School, three weeks of added emphasis on reading for the school's kindergarten through sixth-grade classes.
For students such as Zwak, the month provided a fresh perspective on reading. On Feb. 1, Zwak had little interest in reading. But by the end of the month, the fourth-grader had developed a newfound love of the written word.
"My teacher told me to have fun over break and to find a good book," Zwak said. "So I went to a bookstore and found a good book. Now I like to read."
Mission accomplished, Principal Tim Calkins said.
"We wanted to encourage them to read and to get hooked on reading," Calkins said last week as he poured chocolate milk into paper cups for a reading party for the elementary students. "Now that we're done with I Love to Read Month, we hope they keep on reading and get into good books instead of television shows."
Led by teacher Bonnie Girton, the school developed a February calendar that incorporated a variety of reading activities. Mondays were DEAR -- Drop Everything and Read -- days, when classroom teachers would suddenly interrupt a lesson to start a short reading block. Thursdays were reserved for guest readers. The school also had a partner reading day, a "We Read in P.E." day, a joke and riddle day and a day for reading biographies.
"They seemed to really enjoy it," said Girton, who brought I Love to Read Month to Christian Heritage School from a school she worked at previously. "By telling them to read and giving them incentives, a lot of children have started reading more at home."
On Tuesday, the school had a read-in party to celebrate the end of the month. The school's first-graders, who read the most books during the month, were awarded a movie and popcorn party for their efforts. Some students, including second-grader Marieke Nunnikhoven, dressed up as their favorite literary characters.
"I thought it was really fun because I like to read," said Nunnikhoven, who wore a brown leotard to look like Sunchaser, a unicorn from the book series "Unicorns of Balinor," by Mary Stanton. "You learn a lot sometimes, and you can reach the borders of your imagination."
Fifth-grader Scott Powers read seven books last month. His latest book, "Eragon," is about a boy who finds a strange egg that turns out to be that of a dragon. The dragon eventually helps the boy save the realm, Powers said.
"I like all books, but mostly adventure," Powers said. "They can take you places you've never been, like under the ocean."
Garrison Osteen, a fourth-grader, said he likes to curl up with a good book.
"I've always been a fan of reading," Osteen said. "I like it a lot better than the movies because you can imagine it in your own mind instead of the way movies tell you how to imagine it."
Christian Heritage School teachers proclaimed the reading-emphasis month a success.
"It really created momentum for a couple kids who despise reading," fifth-grade teacher Nicole McLaughlin said. "I think it really did make a difference."
The school plans to make I Love to Read Month an annual event, Calkins said.
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