By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
Challenged to “Go for the Gold,” students at Meadowthorpe Elementary in Lexington romped through this summer’s Reading Olympics and emerged as clear winners. The children logged so many literacy minutes, Principal Joel Katte kept his promise to camp out on the roof during Reading Rewards Recognition Week.
Children and families turned out for bedtime stories at Meadowthorpe Elementary one evening this summer.
Crushing the PTA’s target of 165,000, the youngsters tallied a total of 466,418 minutes.
As students and families gathered outside for cookies and milk one evening this week, Katte read several bedtime stories before climbing atop the school, where he had set up a cot and tent for the night.
PTA committee chair Sabrina Rumford was pleased with the students’ efforts this summer. “I’m inspired by their determination to read over a 10-week period. That’s a long time for a kid,” she said. “It really was a schoolwide success.”
Rumford, whose daughter is in second grade and son in kindergarten, has been a regular classroom volunteer at Meadowthorpe. Fueled by a passion for reading, she had suggested the new program.
“I had a theme in mind because of the Olympics in London. It seemed like a natural fit,” she said. “Our fantastic committee made up of teachers and parents all really worked together these past five months to see this program through.”
The group came up with grade-level award benchmarks based on how many minutes a child logged. The idea was to encourage students to read every day – whether a book, newspaper, graphic novel, comic book or magazine. Listening to audio books while traveling on vacation and being read to by a parent or older sibling also counted.
“We wanted to make it as appealing as possible to all students and be as open as we could to get children to touch any kind of literature,” Rumford said.
A pair of Junior Olympian Days in June and July kept students and parents engaged, and the PTA handed out nearly 500 free books.
“We had a large selection so kids could really go through and pick what they wanted. It was as if they were shopping in a bookstore,” Rumford said. “I want kids to feel like they can read for fun, and we felt like it was important to help folks build up their at-home libraries.”
With the end of August came Reading Rewards Recognition Week, with homework passes, library coupons and extra recess. In a drawing for other donated prizes, medalists took home board games, bicycle helmets, Kentucky Horse Park tickets, miniature golf passes, art supplies and more. After Katte’s camp-out, free family night at Bryan Station High’s football game capped the week.
“Our faculty and PTA are excited to see what effect this summer reading program has on our students,” said reading recovery teacher Debbie Baker, who had concerns that the usual “summer slide” might have been compounded by the longer summer break and the lack of summer school during building renovations.
Of course, Meadowthorpe was not alone in this worry.
Students gathered around as Meadowthorpe Principal Joel Katte read 'Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!'
“As we all know, students who do not read over the summer can suffer academic loss and contribute to the achievement gap. I decided I needed to try to do something about it,” said Tracie Dreyer-Hanes, the library media specialist at Booker T. Washington Academy. “At the end of the school year, I really pumped Scholastic’s summer reading program. I gave every student in the school a username and password as well as paper logs and reading bags with all kinds of coupons and goodies. I also purchased fabulous prizes as an incentive to read over the summer.”
Her students responded well, too, logging nearly 30,000 minutes altogether. Youngsters at James Lane Allen, Liberty, Stonewall and Veterans Park elementaries also participated in the Scholastic Summer Challenge.
At Meadowthorpe, Rumford noted how her PTA committee had reached out to all the school’s families to promote the Reading Olympics, including incoming kindergarteners.
“Every single grade level is represented. The extra effort really paid off,” she said. “On many of the logs, the gold medal section was circled. I’m so thrilled that the kids set a goal and they went for it,” she added. “We can only build on this success, and I expect even more from the students next year.”