Reading Counts changes generate success

The new 20-book challenge for Reading Counts has inspired many middle schoolers to pick up a book this year, according to Media Center Specialist Amy Franco.

“There are a lot of kids bringing in books, checking out, bringing in, checking out,”  she said. “I would guess maybe 20 to 30 a day.”

Reading Counts received a major boost when Principal Rick Fleming made it a priority for the school year.

“In several conversations I was having with staff members that teach AP, they were concerned,” Fleming said. “We collectively had a concern that students were just not reading. In other words, they were coming to class with an expectation of being prepared on a topic that they were to read, and because they might have perused it or read the Cliff Notes from it, they didn’t fully understand the concept.”

According to Fleming, the lack of deep reading was also leading to another educational problem: writing fragmentation.

“It’s research based that good readers, traditionally, are good writers,” he said.

However, writing was not the only worry present.

“We also saw a decline in the number of books being checked out from our collection,” Fleming said. “We were concerned that our students were not reading for pleasure. They were more concerned with reading texts than reading deep intellectual content from either a story, fiction or nonfiction or some kind of informational text.”

In a departure from last year, the Reading Counts initiative specifically targets middle-schoolers.

“Mr. Fleming asked at the first day of school what we were doing for Reading Counts and how we were going to promote it this year,” Franco said. “So I asked him to just let me do seventh and eighth grade, because we felt like the ninth grade students were really busy last year, and they really couldn’t participate as much as the younger kids.”

The old format of a bingo card showing different kinds of books to read has been replaced as well.

“I also decided that the bingo card was a little bit more challenging for us to manage here in the Media Center, so I took that out,” Franco said. “And I just made it a straight 20-book challenge for the year.”

The effects of the new changes already can be seen.

“We started last year, and by the end of the year last year, we had students that read some 75 books and over 20 million words,” Fleming said. “This year already, we have a celebration that we’re going to do at Christmas where we’ll be recognizing students that have read 45 million words. We’ve had over 900 Reading Counts tests that were taken, and over 600 that were passed.”

By Ethan Boyd