Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson

City Backs School's Accelerated Reading Program With Grant


The City Council awarded a $1,500 grant to the Accelerated Reader Program at the Kimball Junior-Senior High School at their February 19 meeting.

The Accelerated Reader Program focuses on increasing literacy among students, assisting teachers with their curriculum, and contributing to students’ joy of reading. The program is overseen by 7th and 8th grade teacher Lani Heeg.

“You take books from the library and books from home, and if there is an accelerated reader test on the system that we have, you take a comprehension test over it. If you get a 70 percent or above, you get points for that test,” Heeg said.

Though the books are chosen by the students themselves, there are a few qualifications they must fall in line with in order to count toward points for the program.

“The books that they choose must fall into a reading level that they’ve been assigned based on a STARS test which is a comprehension test. They must be in a reading level they are competent at,” Heeg said.

The Accelerated Reading points that are accumulated by students are transferred into AR “money” that can be used to purchase various items from the AR book store such as books, bookmarks, book and movie combos, kindles, and magazines.

“Every point they earn they get a quarter towards something in the AR bookstore. The points accumulate, and we have several kids who are over the 300 point mark,” Heeg said.

However, though students earn AR money within the program, that money is not equivalent to dollars and cents to be used at will but rather it can only be used within the program.

“It’s not equivalent to a dollar that you can spend on the streets, not equivalent to something you can get that doesn’t encourage literacy. It’s all about encouraging literacy and getting them to read more,” Heeg said.

According to feedback from students such as 8th grader Keaton Fisher, the program and its token economy appear to be having the desired effect.

“It’s more exciting to work towards something besides just reading and earning it for yourself. It feels like you mature. It feels like you’re earning something for what you’re doing,” Fisher said.

Not only does the program encourage students who have already been avid readers, but it also gets students like Nicholas Thomas-Lewis and Natasha Selves who have not been particularly fond of reading in the past to pick up a book.

“Before I moved here to Kimball, I didn’t have an AR program so I didn’t read much at all. When I came here, I saw AR points, and that kind of motivated me to be one of the best. I continued to read, and I just kept on reading and reading. It was exciting,” Lewis said.

For Selves, it is more about being able to speak confidently about what she has accomplished.

“I’m not really that big of a fan of reading, but with the prizes there, it makes me want to read more books so I can get something out of it. To be able to say I had enough points to get this, It gives me a little bit of bragging rights,” Selves said.

The program not only serves as an inspiration to the students, but also inspires Heeg herself.

“They amaze me. There’s a lot of them that just read, read, read, read. That’s good,” Heeg said.

Though the program has received funds from the City Council, they are still accepting donations from anyone who would like to offer help to the students and help Heeg be better able to reward students with the appropriate prizes for the points that they accumulate.

Anyone interested in donating to the program can either donate online via credit card at http://www.funds4books.com/fundraiser.aspx?pincode=f5e4 or make a check out to Kimball Public Schools and mail to: Kimball Public Schools/901 S. Nadine St./ Kimball, Nebraska 69145.


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