BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When Templeton Elementary School staff set a goal for its students to read 1 million pages between January and April 1, they were cautiously optimistic.
But not only did the students meet the goal, they exceeded it by 72,431 pages.
“We thought they could do it, and they definitely exceeded it, and that was really exciting,” Templeton principal Krista Nelson told The Herald-Times.
Although helping students become excited about reading was the goal of the Ice Cream Reading Challenge, students had a little incentive to keep them going. For every 100,000 pages, the students earned a different ice cream topping.
On Friday, students got the chance to use those toppings to turn Nelson and assistant principal Lisa Roberts into human ice cream sundaes.
“It was sticky,” Nelson said on Monday. “But they loved it. It was sticky but well worth it.”
The students will be further rewarded this Friday, when they will get to enjoy real ice cream sundaes during a schoolwide ice cream party.
Although ice cream and humiliating their principals might have been the students’ reward, Nelson said watching the amount of reading students were doing, both in school and out, was the teachers’ reward.
“The exciting part was having parents coming in saying ‘my child has read all weekend long,’” Nelson said. “The excitement of picking up a book and reading and having students read new genres or different authors — that was probably the biggest ‘aha’ moment of the entire challenge.”
Sixth-grade teacher Kelly Belcher saw that excitement as well.
“It was amazing how many kids would come back from the weekend and say, “Ms. Belcher, I read 200 pages this weekend,” she said.
In addition to the schoolwide challenge, Templeton’s two sixth-grade classes, taught by Belcher and Valerie Gliessman, challenged each other to see who could read the most pages.
Each week, the students would total up that week’s pages, with the winning class receiving the coveted prize of keeping a stuffed tiger, the school’s mascot.
“When you put a competition with 11- and 12-year-olds, it makes whatever you are doing so much more fun,” she said. “When they can compete with kids their own age, they really get into it.”
Belcher said teachers also worked on fluency, and making sure students understood what they were reading.
No matter the reasoning behind the students’ reading, Belcher said there is no better activity she could encourage her students to do.
“I can’t stress enough how much a student can improve by just reading … not just in language arts, but in math and science and everything we do,” she said.