Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Brown Elementary School fifth-grader, Marcus Aqui, said his favorite reason for reading books is "just being able to do it."
Aqui, 11, estimated that he has read more than 50 books since the school year began in August. He likes reading science fiction and "scary books," and boasted that he read all seven books in the "Harry Potter" series over a period of three months.
He reads so many books, he said, in hopes that, one day, they'll help him become a National Merit Scholarship finalist. "I like the way the books are written," he said. "I don't like the pictures too much, because they ruin what I imagine is happening ... Some books, I just read over and over again, because I like them so much."
Aqui is one of 36 students at Brown who were invited to participate, on Monday, in the school's December Chapter Book Challenge Party, which was a reward for students who met monthly reading goals.
"The challenge is for second-through fifth-graders," said Brown Elementary School Literacy Coach Denise McNair. "They have to read at least four books a month, and earn scores of at least 80 percent on their AR [Accelerated Reader] tests to be able to participate in these reward events."
She said the books a student reads must be from his or her AR level.
During the party, the youths sipped hot chocolate, ate Christmas tree-shaped cookies, with green sprinkles on top, and lay on the floor of the school's media center to watch the movie version of the Chris Van Allsburg book, "The Polar Express."
The book and the movie are about a young boy who does not believe in Santa Claus, but he then boards a train, called the Polar Express, that takes children to see Jolly Old Saint Nick at the North Pole on Christmas Eve.
Once the youths reach the North Pole, Santa Claus picks one of them to receive the first present of Christmas.
The students, who were invited to attend the party, brought pillows to lean on as they reclined on the floor to watch the movie. A few even brought blankets as well.
"I like getting to eat the cookies, and drink the hot chocolate, while we're watching the movie," said fourth-grader, Dekunseh Doe, 9, who was participating in a Chapter Book Challenge Party for the third, consecutive month.
McNair and Media Specialist Vicky Adams said there is a different activity each month, and past activities have included guest speakers, bingo games, and a Criterion-Referenced Competency Test-themed "Jeopardy" game.
"Last month, we gave them finished Turkey treats, and all the ingredients to make it, and they had to try and figure out how to make it, while writing down each step they took to re-create the treat," Adams said.
McNair said she and Adams are planning to introduce a reading-rewards program for kindergartners and first-graders in January. While the older students get to participate in monthly activities, the younger pupils will be rewarded on a weekly basis, she said.
"Every time they finish reading a book and reach that 80 percent mark on their AR tests, they'll be able to put their name in a box, and we'll have a drawing at the end of the week for a prize," she said.