Reading skills shift into high gear for Seneca Valley's Haine Elementary students

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Each year, Haine Elementary School in Cranberry comes up with a way to get students excited about reading.

This year, the Seneca Valley students were asked to record how much they normally read. If they exceeded that amount, their classroom would get an opportunity to race remote-controlled cars against their peers as part of “Race into Reading” program.

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

The gigantic racetrack 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 race cars and colored with checkered flags, Downing saw an opportunity to put things into high gear for the students.

It was almost like they were in Disney World, 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 corporate events, birthday parties and proms.

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

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

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

Matt DeFusco is a reporter for Trib Total Media.

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