LEAD Southeast Middle School students and faculty hit their goal of reading 200 million words this school year as “Read Across America” begins.
LEAD Southeast Middle School Principal Emma Mac and her team noticed that their students didn’t seem to be reading outside of the required texts at home.
“Our kids weren’t talking about books in a way we wanted them to talk about books,” Mac said. “We noticed that as people stopped reading to our students as they got older, their love of reading was not persisting.”
Research shows the single action that has the largest impact on students’ academic growth is reading. The LEAD Southeast team knew that a love of reading was vital to helping students increase their comprehension and vocabulary and encourage them to think critically as they continued their studies after middle school.
The team decided to overhaul their reading program and implement an incentive program that everyone could compete in. At the beginning of the school year, Assistant Principal Caitlin Burkholder-Travis and Instructional Coach Hannah Knox started the “Millionaire Club” that encourages everyone in the school to read 200 million words collectively and recognizes individuals, including faculty and staff, that read 1 million.
For the first 30 minutes of every school day, students are allowed to dive into a book of their own choosing and encouraged to continue reading at home.
“Our biggest goal is to increase a love of reading,” Mac said. “We feel passionate that our kids are choosing what they want to read.”
Students track their progress by taking Accelerated Reader quizzes after they finish a book. The test notes the number of words in each book.
Students are rewarded for every 100,000 words they read with a button. Reaching the “Millionaire” goal means you get the coveted Millionaire Club sweatshirt, with the extra perk of having a say in the sweatshirt color for next year. Thirty-two LEAD Southeast students are now part of the club, along with five teachers.
LEAD Southeast teachers even started a book club where they read young adult books with diverse perspectives. It allows them to make suggestions to students based on their interests. LEAD Southeast Middle set a goal at the beginning of the year to collectively read 200 million words as a school.
In just six months, Mac has seen reading change the school culture. She said it’s very normal now to hear students and teachers talking in the hallway about what books they are reading or suggestions for their next book.
In fact, book sales doubled at the Scholastic Book Fair this year.
With so many students interested in reading, LEAD Southeast needs more books for students to choose from. If you are interested in donating to the school’s library, contact Elouise Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org.