“Creating a Reading Community”: Elementary Read-A-Thons Gather Almost $20,000

Sagebrush Elemntary celebrates the conclusion of its Read-A-Thon program Monday in their school gym. Sheridan High School cheerleaders, Sheridan Game and Fish including Smokey the Bear were there and so was Pooh bear supporting this year's BEAR theme: "Be Excited About Reading". (photo courtesy of Sagebrush PTO)
Sagebrush Elemntary celebrates the conclusion of its Read-A-Thon program Monday in their school gym. Sheridan High School cheerleaders, Sheridan Game and Fish including Smokey the Bear were there and so was Pooh bear supporting this year's BEAR theme: "Be Excited About Reading". (photo courtesy of Sagebrush PTO)

Two Sheridan elementary schools are getting kids excited about reading and raising money at the same time.

Highland Park elementary raised more than $19,000 and Sagebrush elementary took in more than $16,000 during each school's respective two-week long Read-A-Thon program in October.

Students totaled more than 250,000 minutes of reading at each school over the two weeks - the equivalent of 25 weeks of non-stop reading.

With help from parents, kids gathered pledges from community members for their minutes-read with all funds going the school's PTO program. Money is also raised through community sponsorships for prizes awarded to kids and classrooms with the most minutes.

Sagebrush spearheaded the idea two years ago, and principal Mike Wood says it's all about getting kids excited about reading.

Sagebrush PTO parents Kim Ordahl, Amy Lee, and Nancy Hooge help coordinate Read-A-Thon along with parents and staff.

PTO money traditionally goes to fund parties, teacher appreciation days, bake sales and field trips but this program is allowing Sagebrush's PTO to do a little more. Last year, Sagebrush used the money to buy a new playground apparatus and purchase books. Sagebrush plans to use this year's funds to build an “Outdoor Learning Shelter” for use on hot days for outdoor classes.

Hooge says it was just a good fit.

For the kids, additional motivation comes in the form of dollars earned for minutes read that they can spend at the school book fair held in November. Wood said that there were 5th graders who passed 5,000 minutes (about 3 1/2 days) of reading this year.

Sagebrush worked with Principal Brent Leibach and Highland Park, who tried the program out for the first time this year, raising almost $20,000 for Highland's PTO program. Principal Leibach wrote in his parental address on Highland Park's website that "every dollar will be used to support our HP kids".

Sagebrush raised almost $22,000 in their first Read-A-Thon two years ago.

Principal Wood wants the rest of the elementary schools in the district to make Sheridan a "reading community”.

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