Sept. 24, 2021 -- There’s a giant sign on the front lawn of Roxboro Elementary that says “Rox El loves to Read.” And it’s not wrong. The entire student body is engaged in a ten-day Read-a-thon, with every single child logging minutes and vying to read more than their classmates.
It’s a friendly competition, where everyone has the chance to be a winner. And not just because they get to experience the joy of a good book but because they actually get to own a good book. To kick-off the event, every student visited the school’s book vending machine (nicknamed Rita Story) to choose their own new book to take home and add to their libraries.
There are also daily incentives, aligned with building spirit days. For the “Reading makes you shine” day, students wore neon and got glowsticks, while Skittles accompanied the Reading Rainbow day. There’s even a pajama day so students can get cozy and curl up with a favorite book.
Students are logging daily minutes read, whether that be during DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time in class, reading on their own outside of school or being read to. They have the option to log into a Google Meet every evening and listen to a Rox teacher, their principal or even their superintendent reading aloud from a favorite book. During the week, those meets are live and might include conversation, but are prerecorded for the weekend.
Each day after lunch recess, students who turn in their reading logs are handed a raffle ticket to place in their favorite of 13 kid-friendly gift baskets with themes like Little Scientist, Baking or Legos. While students are also collecting monetary pledges for the number of minutes they read, there is no prize or recognition for students who’ve raised the most money. “All prizes and all accolades are for reading,” said parent and Read-a-thon mastermind Mary Pat Jolivette.
Rox El’s PTA offered community members the option to donate $10 to be assigned to a student who hadn’t otherwise raised much money, an effort that brought in an additional $500. In a year still full of pandemic uncertainties, the Read-a-thon is taking the place of Roxboro’s typical One School One Book event plus Literacy Night and is serving as the PTA’s main fundraiser.
A highlight of the ten-day event will be the Amazing Reading Race, taking place in Coventry Village on Thursday, September 24. With families competing as teams, the event is loosely modeled after The Amazing Race and includes clues for stops at various local businesses, with each stop featuring a literacy activity for children and their families to complete together. Every finisher receives a coupon for a free Tommy’s milkshake, perfect to pair with a good book.
“The idea was really to get people together in a safe environment,” said Jolivette of the evening. “We have so many new families [who’ve started since the pandemic] who feel disconnected from the school experience.” With Principal Shelly Pulling and some teachers present, they hope the Amazing Reading Race can serve as a welcoming reconnection.
Support from families and local businesses have added to the excitement over reading. In addition to the 13 raffle baskets that every student has the chance to win, there are grand prizes for each grade level. The top reader in the 5th grade will earn a Ripstick while the top 3rd grader gets a scooter, and the top 1st grader a Vtech Kidizoom camera. But the grandest grand prize of all is reserved for the student who logs the most minutes read in the entire building: Principal for a Day. According to Ms. Jolivette, “The kids were most excited when they learned that the Principal eats Tommy’s for lunch!”
The team of parent volunteers bringing the Read-a-thon to life is led by Jolivette and Literacy Co-Chair Clare Taft, along with other members of the PTA, with plus Lead Intervention Specialist Candace Summers who serves as the liaison between parents and teachers. Countless local businesses are supporting the endeavor including Mac’s Backs, Appletree, Quintana’s, Card My Yard, and S’Wonderful Gifts among others, all coming together to promote reading for Roxboro students.