Whitnel Elementary beats bigger schools in reading challenge

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

Late this past spring, Whitnel Elementary School asked the community to bring in books for kids to take home during the summer – and donations poured in beyond expectations.

Whitnel collected 4,147 books as part of Give Five Read Five, a statewide program in which schools sought donations of children’s books, then tried to send each child home with about five books to read over the summer.

Whitnel’s total was the second highest in the state and the highest in the school’s size category of 350 to 550 students.

Seventy-four North Carolina elementary schools collected and distributed books as part of Give Five Read Five – the statewide total was 123,152 books. Winterfield Elementary in Charlotte collected the most, 7,186 books. West Hoke Elementary in Raeford, with 2,675 books, came in third place. All three schools will receive one-year licenses to Scholastic's "Reading Counts," an online literacy program that allows students to take quizzes and complete activities based on books they've read.

Give Five Read Five was based on a study published by James Kim at Harvard that showed reading five books over the summer can help curb "summer loss," the delay in educational development in the fall that happens after an extended summer break from school.

At Whitnel, sending kids home with five books would have required gathering around 2,000 books. Since the school pulled in donations of more than 4,000 books, each student at the school went home with eight.

“It was really about the community rallying around us,” Whitnel principal Andy Berry said.

Resurrection Hope Church in Lenoir, the Caldwell County Friends of the Library and other churches, nonprofits, businesses and individuals came together to donate truckloads of books, Berry said.

For the last two weeks of school, books were spread out on tables in the school’s media center. Students cycled through the library after their lunches and chose books from the stacks.

“The fact that these are books that they chose, that were in their interest level, makes it more likely that they will open and read them,” Berry said. “So that’s very exciting to me, that the children had choice.”