LAPOINT, Uintah County — The chanting inside the gym at Lapoint Elementary School grew louder and louder Friday as students watched Jessica Wright scrunch up her face, twitch her nose, and flex her jaw muscles.
One Oreo had already slid off the kindergarten teacher's cheek and hit the floor, barely missing her open mouth. Wright let out a brief squeal, tipped her head back and began working another Oreo from her forehead to her mouth without her hands.
Her successful second attempt at completing the "Minute to Win It"-inspired contest brought the students to their feet, cheering and clapping as Wright busted out a short celebratory dance.
The contest was one of eight held during a special assembly to reward students, teachers and the community for reaching a goal set by the Lapoint Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization at the start of the school year.
That goal? To read for a total of 1 million minutes.
"The students' parents and their siblings were also involved in our reading program," said Lapoint PTO President Angie Holt.
"We felt like if the children saw their parents reading, and working toward the goal with them, that it would excite them more," she added.
Between September and February, Lapoint's 280 students joined with family members and teachers to read 1,038,942 minutes, which works out to more than 721 days of reading.
Fifth-grader Rachel Young was the top student reader, accounting for 23,046 minutes on her own. That's 16 days of reading.
"I like reading. It gives me something to do," said Rachel, whose favorite books are Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series.
Rachel was surprised to be the school's top reader. Her mother, Jeanette Young, was not.
"Sometimes she stays up until 10 or 11 reading," Young said.
Lapoint principal Dennis Atkin said involving family members in this year's reading program was critical not only to the program's success, but also to improving students' overall academic performance.
"Family reading time is so important," Atkin said. "There are studies that show that children who have 1,000 hours of lap time (reading) with their parents before kindergarten become great students."
Lapoint Elementary PTO members are already planning the reading program for next year. The school community will face the challenge of reading at least 1.5 million minutes.
"We feel like they need to learn how to be good readers, and it starts here in the elementary school," Holt said. "The more they read, the more they learn, the more they're empowered."