The power of reading

Students at Paul Banks Elementary School, a K-2 school on East End Road that also offers a preschool program, are known as “Peanuts.” However, there’s nothing peanut-sized about their love of reading.

Between Feb. 3 and Feb. 26, a short-two-week stretch, the youngsters read a total of 204,490 minutes.

“They set a new school record and were pretty impressive,” said Principal Eric Pederson of exceeding the previous 140,000 minutes read during the annual event.

The school’s student population adds to the impact of an activity such as this.

“The coolest thing is you can really focus on things at one level,” said Pederson. “We really pushed these emerging readers into really getting into it. They just focused on reading.”

The theme for this year’s read-a-thon was “The Case of the Missing Books.” In the kick-off assembly, the storyline presented to the students was that Nome resident Sven, a lover of books and dogs, had received a letter from the school asking him for a sled load of books to replace those lost in a flood in the school’s library.

Eager to help out, Sven packed a supply of reading material into a dry bag, put it on his sled and he and his dogs headed for Homer.

In spite of a snowstorm along the way, Sven safely completed the journey only to discover the books were no longer on the sled. However, along the way, Sven had met a couple of sourdoughs, Henry and Stanley, who knew the books’ location. For every 12,000 minutes the students read, they were given a trivia question that, when answered correctly, resulted in a piece of a map indicating the books’ whereabouts.

Winning pizza parties for being the students with the most read minutes were the classrooms of teachers Margaret Priest, Jennifer Reinhart, Dina Marion and Jennifer Olson.

Individual students who read the most minutes and won dog sled rides were:

• Berend Pearson, preschool;

• Karah Martin, kindergarten;

• Caitlyn Rogers, first grade;

• Hazel Pearson and Regan Baker, second grade.

A side benefit to the read-a-thon involved students enlisting the help of sponsors, who pledged either a flat amount or for every 15-minute block of reading completed.

“They raised about $4,000,” said Pederson, of financial support that “directly effects the kids,” and is used for fieldtrip transportation, as well as technology and equipment needs.

Leading fundraisers in each grade level also will be awarded dog sled rides.

Adding a touch of reality to the event, Pederson and his dog team, as well as Henry and Stanley, arrived at the school at the end of the read-a-thon, delivering to the young readers the missing bag of books.

“The ending assembly was amazing,” said teacher Wendy Todd, one of the read-a-thon organizers. “One of the students said at the end, in total excitement, ‘This whole thing was real. It wasn’t a story. This is so great.’”

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