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

By Sydney Yalshevec

Janicek's class in top 100 for BOOK IT! program yet again


Sydney Yalshevec

Mrs. Janicek's fifth grade class.

People who read regularly reap several benefits, and those benefits are better when gained at a young age. Pizza Hut uses the BOOK IT! program to encourage reading in elementary schools across the country. Mary Lynch Elementary school was a participant in the BOOK IT! program this year, and Laurie Janicek's fifth grade class read the most.

Reading has proven to be of great benefit to young and old alike, however, with most good practices it is more beneficial the younger one starts. Reading helps to develop verbal abilities and vocabulary. Books and other reading material provide the reader with a sort of template for effective speech and proper grammar. Reading also sharpens the ability to learn definitions based off of context clues, the determining a meaning of a word based on the surrounding phrases and sentences. Reading on a regular basis improves one's memory, causing the reader to recall the information taken in at a later time. This kind of ability is beneficial to students, especially when they must comprehend and recall information they've read for a test. Focus and attention are also things that improve from reading. In order to grasp the story of the material presented one must focus on character description and be able to pay attention to the unfolding plot. Curling up with a good book can also be a way for a reader to unwind and ward off stress. The act of reading itself slows the heart rate while also providing a form of recreation.

Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, at the New School for Social Research in New York, did a study involving 1,000 randomly selected participants. They had the participants read popular fiction and literary fiction. What they discovered was that the people who had read the literary fiction were more adept at identifying other's emotions. They were grasping, understanding and experiencing a world different form their own and relating. This is not the only study done that shows an increase in empathy in readers. It is also a wonderful way for students to experience other ways of life and new people, they might otherwise never encounter.

The benefits of reading are plainly there and of all companies, Pizza Hut found a way to encourage it in young students. BOOK IT! was established in 1985 as a way to motivate children to read by rewarding them with praise, recognition and pizza. The program currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually. A free online minute tracker is provided for students to see how many minutes they read both individually and as a class.

The teacher makes an account on the website and then the students can report the minutes they read. BOOK IT works on an individual level. The teacher sets a goal for each individual student. These goals are set by the teacher so that way the goals are at each student's level. When the student meets their goal they are given a Reading Award Certificate. This certificate, when redeemed, is good for a free one-topping personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut.

The program is flexible for all children and based on reading ability. Their goals can be in number of books, pages, or minutes. Many schools have chosen to use BOOK IT! in addition to their normal reading programs in order to boost enthusiasm and participation.

On April 18, 2014, Laurie Janicek received an email that notified her of her class' success. Janicek's class qualified as one of the top 100 Minute Tracker participants across the U.S. In total Janicek's class read 262,590 minutes during the extent of the contest, which lasted October 2013 through March 2014. If one were to break this down into days, over the 182 days that the contest lasted Janicek's class averaged a little over 1,442 minutes per day.

All the minutes read were based on reading that the children completed outside of school.

"I encouraged my students to read anything that interests them, like newspapers, magazines, cartoons, comics whatever they like to read will help them in life," Janicek said.

While Janicek made sure to encourage the students to read several kinds of material she also stressed the importance of reading and how it benefits.

"Reading is enjoyable and very important for students and adults so they can go out into the world and have a wonderful life, you can go anywhere in your stories," Janicek said.

Janicek's enthusiasm for reading rubbed off on all her students. The students shared their favorite parts of reading. A few students shared what parts of reading they like most; Jaydin Paxton likes the pictures and the captions, Haydon Mudge likes to learn new things, and Max Tracy gravitates toward action books. Sydney Keller shared why she thinks reading is important.

"Reading is beneficial because it helps you understand other subjects," Keller said.

Samantha Bemis, Megan Spicer, Cole Henton, and Zander Hottell shared the names of their favorite books including Trouble Twisters, the Geronimo Stilton Series, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series, and the Minecraft Series. Justin Smith recognized certain benefits of reading as well.

"It helps you to be able to have great conversations and a bigger vocabulary," Smith said.

Janicek's class was awarded a trophy made from glass to display in their classroom, showing that they are in the Top 100 Minute Trackers in the U.S. They also got a pizza party provided by the local Pizza Hut.


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