If more is better, then Highland Park Elementary School must be the best - at least when it comes to reading.
Last October, the school's 800 students committed to reading 600,000 pages by mid-February, a lofty goal by most standards. But it wasn't good enough for the Highland Park students. They reset their sights and aimed for 1 million pages.Wednesday, they celebrated with a special assembly. They had gone over the top, with a total of 1,146,853 pages. The most pages were read by the second-grade class of Maile Rowley and the sixth-grade class of Penny Anjewierden.
But it wasn't just the massive reading that made the students and their teachers so proud. Read-a-thons and schoolwide reading programs are commonplace in Utah schools. But the Highland Park students were reading with a special goal in mind. As their pages accumulated, they were earning books for the children at the Salt Lake Homeless Shelter.
The Highland Park PTA promised it would donate books to the shelter based on the reading totals.
"Our purpose was to encourage reading, but we also wanted to teach the children about the importance of giving something to someone else," said Harriet Matkin of the school's RIF (Reading is Fundamental) Committee.
Books are a real need at the shelter. Shelter school teacher Stacey Bess, along with two children from the shelter, Kari and Michelle Bingham, accepted 100 books from the students at the assembly.
Bess said new books are in short supply at the shelter. "We'd like to pass them out when the kids leave the shelter so their parents can work with them," she said.
That hadn't been possible until now. She told the students that their dedication would give 100 other children the opportunity to own books and cuddle up with their moms or dads and read.
Several Highland Park students said another benefit of pushing for that goal was that they developed a love of reading. Nathan Furr, who stressed he is 71/2, said he has a new habit - he reads in bed for an hour each night. Like her other second-grade classmates, Elizabeth White, 7, said the bite of the reading bug is strong. In her case, she now spends more time reading than watching television.