Marked Tree Elementary fostering love of reading through new initiative
This school year, Marked Tree Elementary School has been working to get kids excited about reading. Assistant Principal Tina Hotchkiss said they started the initiative after noticing a need to get students reading more and that the purpose of the program is to foster a love of reading.
The program is called Marked Tree READS (Ready, Excited, Achieving, Determined for Success). Each quarter, students in grades 3-6 are asked to read as many books as they can over a nine-week period. They also complete projects related to their reading, compete in school-wide competitions, and discuss books they are reading both in and out of class.
Some of the project suggestions--among many others--have been designing a book jacket, constructing a diorama, dressing and acting as a character from a book, creating a mini-comic related to the book, and making a travel brochure advertising the setting of a book.
Classes are also competing, with whichever class reads the most books getting a party. Teachers will also read books the kids are reading so they can discuss them one on one. Hotchkiss said she has also been reading with kids. She will read a book in her spare time and then discuss it with them at school. "I read "Ivan the Great" for one kid, and I'm reading a book for a third grader that I will talk with," Hotchikiss said.
The school also has trips to Barnes and Noble for the eight kids who read the most in their grade level or who placed first, second, or third with their projects. They get to pick out a book for themselves, and they also get to pick out books for the book room at school.
The school librarian, Kristy Hister, is very involved in the program. "I know I've seen more kids checking out more books and having more conversations about books," Hister said. "They're more excited about getting the newest book in a series or finding a book they really like."
Hister added that the program also gets students interested in building their reading level so they can read higher level books.
Fifth grader Kailee Duncan was the student who read the most books during the first nine weeks. "Personally, I really like it," Duncan said. "I always loved to read but had limitations. I never knew there was a whole book room where we had access to all these books every day."
Duncan added that one thing she liked about the program was that the rewards motivate kids to read who don't like to. And once they start reading, they start liking it more. "It gets people more interested in reading," she said.
Duncan said her favorite project so far has been designing a book jacket, which she did for a Babysitter's Club book. For the second nine weeks, she made a poster about the Amulet comic series. The series was so popular that Hotchkiss said she ended up buying the rest of the series so students could read the rest.
The program has also seen students greatly increase the number of books they read. From numbers Hotchkiss provided, several students went from reading one book the first nine weeks to as many as 11, 16, and even 19 books the second nine weeks. And those were just the students who read the least amount of books. Altogether, students read over 700 books during the second nine weeks.
"It's really taken off," Hotchkiss said. "Some kids will get off the bus, and you'll see them with a book open. It makes me feel really good that we're making a difference. We started this because we needed something to motivate the kids. We want them to love reading so that when they do go to high school, it carries over."