After seven years of 7th graders accepting the 16-Books-in-16-Weeks Reading Challenge, 8th graders now have the chance, too, thanks to Ms. Brewer who helped organize funding for the reward trip in May. Students must read sixteen books by May 1st and score 80% or higher on AR tests for each one. For their efforts, students will get to go on a surprise trip and be out of the classroom for a whole day. The original challenge began with Mr. Arnold, former assistant principal, who promoted Smart Step Literacy Lab, a program which encourages students to become lifelong readers.
“At the time, we were looking for a way to keep kids interested in reading amid the spring testing season and keep them engaged all the way through to the end of the school year,” Ms. Brewer said. “We have had a lot of participation over the years.”
Eighth graders have multiple reasons to participate in the Reading Challenge.
“I not only like reading, but it also allows me to see how well I know books,” Byison McKinney, 8th, said.
They each found their own enjoyment in reading.
“I like that reading takes me away from anything bad I’m feeling,” Cha’Briya Harris, 8th, said.
Books have become a big part in the students’ lives.
“They [books] make you feel like you’re actually living what you’re reading,” Joselina Roman Perez, 8th, said.
Aside from going on a trip at the end of the year, the Reading Challenge offers many values.
“The benefits to the challenge include increased reading comprehension, increased self-disciplined sustained reading time, increased reading levels, and ultimately better performance on tests,” Ms. Brewer said. “It is a funding issue every year — where is the money going to come from? We have managed to figure it out in various ways from grants, donations, and yes, sometimes begging, but we always find a way because we believe it is worth it!”
As for the seventh grade, language arts teachers Mrs. Medlin and Mrs. McFarland-Ordonez have kept the spirit of the challenge alive by encouraging students to read books like The Hobbit and Alphabet of Dreams. Students who read the books within a month and scored at least an 80% on the AR test were treated to a book club discussion lunch with food provided by Mrs. Medlin and Mrs. McFarland-Ordonez.
“The best part of the reading challenge is that it can motivate students who are not usually voracious readers,” Mrs. McFarland-Ordonez said. “Kids like it because it’s competitive, and we get out of school for a day to have fun!”