Students at Haine Elementary School in a race to boost reading skills

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:35 p.m.

Each year, Haine Elementary School decides on a theme for reading that will give the students different books to read and keep them motivated.

This year's theme was “Race into Reading,” which opened up a unique opportunity to have fun and promote reading skills.

On Feb. 1, students at Haine Elementary got a chance to compete against each other with a gigantic remote-controlled racing course as a reward for exceeding their reading goals.

Students from kindergarten to fifth grade were asked to record how much they normally read and then if they exceeded that amount of reading time, their classroom would be considered to participate in the event.

Michelle Ellis, Haine Elementary School's superintendent, said that the event was a really big success and that the kids really enjoyed having something fun as an incentive for their hard work.

“They got really into it,” Ellis said. “They were just excited to try something new and cheer each other on.”

The remote controlled equipment was set up and used free of charge thanks to Shane Downing, the parent of two Haine Elementary students, who owns the company “Ready … Set … Race” and runs it out of his home.

When he saw his son, Josh, a fourth grader, bring home a racing book covered with racecars and colored with checkered flags, Downing saw an opportunity to put things into high gear for the students and offered the use of his equipment.

Downing said it was clear that the kids enjoyed it from their facial expressions.

It was almost like they were in Disneyworld, he said. “It was a good experience; I had a lot of fun.”

The racetrack, which took about three hours to set up, is typically used for things like corporate events, birthday parties and proms.

For Ellis, the point of having the event was more than just getting the children to read more.

Reading is a lifelong skill that will flow into all the other subjects that the children learn, Ellis said.

“The whole goal is to inspire the love of reading,” Ellis said, explaining that reading more is good but the school wants to teach the children that reading is “something that is just going to enrich their lives.”

Matt DeFusco is an intern with Trib Total Media.

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