Stevenson ends reading initiative in style

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By MELISSA LOU

After six months of the Field-Stevenson "Book-It" reading incentive program, fifth grader Briana Parks said she had read over 100 books and walked away with a wealth of information and a profound love of reading. On May 6, she also rode away with a brand new bike from Ed's Way, as a reward for her dedication to the program.

"We've been doing this for about 7 years now," said Karen Hinz of Ed's Way. "We try to help out because a lot of people in townâ€"their kids come [to school] here so it is a way to give back to them."

Hinz added that Ed's Way is actively involved with the school, helping out in many of their programs.

In this case in particular, and for all her hard work, Parks will get to select any bicycle she wants at the local Wal-Mart, Hinz said.

Parks said she was excited about the prize and that she waned to purchase a boy bike.

"I already have a girl bike," she explained. "So I want to ride a boy bike."

Parks was chosen at random from among all the students who participated in all six months of the school's "Book-It" program.

Through the program, students who read extra assignments each month went into a drawing for PTA-sponsored prizes. Students who successfully completed all six months of the program went into the drawing for the bike.

To qualify for the prizes, Parks and her fellow students had to read at home, every night, for 10 to 20 minutes, explained Paul Cushing, the reading specialist at Field-Stevenson who ran the program.

It is entirely time-based, he explained. Students had to read a minimum each night, depending on their grade and age level. For example, Cushing said, a kindergarten student would read 10 minutes each night, while a fifth grader would read 20 minutes per night.

This year, 56 kids participated in the program.

"That's almost a third of the kids here," Cushing said. "They read any books they want and it is up to the parents to keep track of it. There is a signature sheet that comes in."

The program is entirely on the honor system, Cushing said, and there have not been any problems in its 7-year run.

"It is good at involving children and parents with reading," Cushing said. "It develops reading improvement and a love of reading. Early reading is really important for kid's success in school."

He said he credits the program, and others like it, with helping improve the schools' reading standardized test scores, which outpace math and science scores for the district.

At least in Park's case, Cushing's program seems to be right on target.

"I love reading," she said. "I do it in my spare time. I get into readings so much, sometimes I don't want to stop."

In fact, as part of the program, Parks said she read a wide variety of books, including selections from the Arthur Books collection and, her favorite, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events."

"It was really interesting," she said of her favorite book. "I couldn't wait until the next part of it."

She said the suspense of getting from chapter to chapter is what intrigued her the most about the book.

The awards ceremony occurred at the end of an assembly titled "Rag to Rap" in which professional musicians traced the history of music in the U.S. during that past century.

During the assembly, students danced the morning away, learning about the country's rich musical heritage, ending with songs from today's pop culture, including students' renditions of Beyonce and Jay-Z's "Crazy in Love."

At the end, teacher David Mertz got in on the action, showing the kids he was 'hip to their lingo.'

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