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Principals Make Reading a School-Wide Goal

Students pledge to read thousands of pages First- and fifth-graders buddy up for reading Those events and others are part of school-wide reading programs at two Minnesota schools. Included: Additional activities to help make reading a school-wide goal.

During Minnesotas I Love to Read Month celebration in February, Will Remmert, principal of Washington Elementary School in Mankato, challenged his 450 students to read a total of 145,000 minutes outside the classroom. He even pledged that if they reached that goal, he would wear a dress to school.

The students actually read a total of 250,000 minutes outside the classroom that month, and Remmert made good on his promise. But that wasnt all the school did to celebrate the students achievement.

At the end of the month, Remmert and his staff organized a school-wide assembly. A graphic thermometer with the number of minutes read by students marked in red was on display. In addition, the top student reader from each grade was allowed to throw a pie in the face of a teacher from that grade level to celebrate reaching the reading goal.

Our teachers were really good sports to participate, Remmert said.

Finally I appeared wearing a big ugly flowery-print dress, a garden hat, a purple scarf, and slippers, Remmert said. The kids got a big kick out of it all, and the teachers had a good time. It was just a super event.

Now the school is continuing its emphasis on developing students reading skills with family night activities. We invite parents or other relatives to come to the school and read with our students, Remmert said. Then we serve cookies or other treats. The whole idea is to encourage parents to read with their kids. Its a simple but effective activity.

Were dedicated to developing the idea of enjoyment of reading in students, said Remmert. We do everything we can to make sure students leave here as quality readers.

And I guess throwing myself out there helps, he continued. It helps when kids see that we adults will do crazy things for their benefit because thats why were here. Were here for them.


At Hoover Elementary School, also in Mankato, first-grade teacher Andrea Hansen teams up with fifth-grade teacher Katie Botten to foster an ongoing Book Buddy program. Hansen developed the idea for Book Buddy during a Building Communities in Your School course she took while working for her masters degree.

The Book Buddy program at the school started three years ago. It brings together a first-grade class with a fifth-grade class for 25 minutes each Friday.

During the activity, each first-grader is paired with a fifth-grade buddy. Initially the first-graders read to fifth-graders from their favorite books; then the fifth-graders read to first-graders from their favorite books. Participants also discuss their books.

Sometimes the activities vary. One Friday the fifth-graders read fairy tales they had written to first-graders. Another week first-graders put on a Henny Penny play for their fifth-grade buddies.

The activity improves reading skills, Hansen said, but its benefits go beyond that.

Hansen reported that once a fifth-grade book buddy stood up for a first-grader who was being bullied by another fifth-grader. First-graders awe and even fear of the fifth-grade big kids has lessened because of the program, Hansen said. Hoover is a K-5 school.

First- and fifth-graders high-five in the hallways and talk to each other in the lunch line, Hansen said. Sharing the activity has created some friendships between first- and fifth-graders.wp

We know reading is so very important. Along with math, its a key skill we develop in students, Sharon Fitch, the principal at Hoover, commented.

We carefully monitor our students reading test scores for progress, she added, and we emphasize reading skills in staff development.


Here are more reading activities that are fun to do during I Love to Read Month but that also help develop students reading skills throughout the school year:

Read Aloud
Read aloud to the class each day, no matter what age the students are. Present complete stories whenever possible. Use high-interest literature with humor, or literature thats of special interest to students.

Student Library
Have students create a classroom library developed and run by them.

Featuring Foods
Have each student read aloud a poem with food as its theme.

Hold a sing-along with students. Use an overhead projector to provide the words of old favorites and new songs.

Reading Tickets Day
When students read after their work is done, teachers give each of them a ticket. Students write their names on their tickets and place them in a jar at the school office. At the end of the day, three tickets are drawn and those students receive prizes.

Read in Style
Teachers and students wear dress-up clothes and students read aloud in groups.

Book Academy Awards
Each student nominates a favorite book for an Academy Award. They complete a sheet describing their nomination, and the sheets are displayed in the cafeteria for a week. On Friday, students vote to select the top five books, and each winning student talks about the acclaimed book at an Academy Awards ceremony.


Be sure to visit Education Worlds popular Reading Fun Archive. There youll find dozens of lesson plans, articles, and ideas.