11/30/11 — Dillard Academy sets sights on 25-book reading goal

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Dillard Academy sets sights on 25-book reading goal

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 30, 2011 1:46 PM

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Nathan Sutton reads about kitchen science in Deborah Martinez' third-grade class at Dillard Academy Tuesday.

Just outside the main office at Dillard Academy is a tall glass trophy case.

Instead of awards and trophies, it is filled with something far more precious -- books.

"We do books instead of trophies because that's what we're after," said principal Brian Smith, who has been at the school since 2009.

"You have to read to succeed."

That was the chant heard at Monday afternoon's assembly, where the school officially kicked off its 25-book campaign.

Students in all grades are encouraged to read at least that many books during the school year.

If a child reads 25 minutes a day, for 200 days out of the year at a rate of 200 words per minute, they will have read 1 million words, Smith said.

"Why do we read 1 million words?" he asked those at the assembly. "To improve our reading proficiency, to be able to read independently, to become fluent readers, to learn new vocabulary, to increase our reading comprehension, to learn about the world around you."

Studies have shown that students who avidly read will advance faster in school, not to mention achieving more in their future, he said.

From preschoolers through middle school age, the entire student body will participate in the incentive-based program.

For the youngest, five little books equal one book, and for the older, more advanced readers, students get one sticker on their classroom chart for each chapter book read. Reading can be done in a variety of ways -- independently, with a partner, by reading aloud or listening to a book on tape.

Teachers will monitor progress throughout, with recognition made at nine-week intervals. Incentive prizes along the way include class parties and coupons, culminating with a special assembly where those who have accomplished the goal will be recognized and awarded a medal.

Shorlette Stephens spoke at the kick-off assembly.

"I just downloaded a book while I was sitting here chillin' with my phone," she told the audience, before sharing a story with them.

The former children's librarian at Wayne County Public Library now works with a local research farm.

"The cool thing is that literacy is important, no matter what you do," she said.

She enjoys reading so much, she said, that she named her daughter, now 10, after a popular book character, Anansi.

Smith said he has become personally involved in the reading effort, introducing the "Principal Book of the Month" at the school.

"I read a book to them, I read to every class," he said. "The next one, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' will be very interactive.

"The kids write about it and then we display their artwork on a wall outside the office."

And to ensure that the students have access to plenty of books, Dillard Academy is rebuilding its school library, the principal said.

"Before I got here, all the library books got put away," he said. "They got rid of most of the library books except the ones that teachers kept. I wrote a grant for Target (and we) bought brand new books and Castles, our after school program, bought even more books.

"We're able to have a brand-new library. It's not big yet, but it's somewhere around 2,000 books. We're hoping to keep that going."

Staff have worked to develop the school's library, volunteering their time to set up the books, with a teacher assistant being designated to check out books to students.

The school is also hosting a book fair this week, he noted, which could be another way to garner support and build up the program.

"Anyone who would be interested in purchasing books and donating them to the new library that we have just started this year will be greatly appreciated," Smith said.