McIntyre sixth-graders rewarded for their 'millions'

| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

McIntyre Elementary School's educational heritage took on a new meaning when 30 of its sixth-grade students became self-made “millionaires” by the end of the school year.

The “Millionaires Club” is a program that sixth-grade teacher Vince Pollaro brought to the Ross Township school in 1997 in which students are encouraged to independently read 1 million words throughout the school year.

The students choose books from a list of 44,000 novels featured on the Scholastic Reading Counts website.

After completing each book, students take a quiz to assess their reading comprehension. Upon passing the quiz, each student is credited for the number of words contained in the book.

The team of sixth-grade teachers — Pollaro, Caraline Falcettoni, Barbra Weaver — and reading specialist Lisa Atkinson tracked students' progress and updated the results on a class bulletin board each day.

“The program helps students build stamina for middle school, where they may have 20 pages of science, 20 pages of social studies and another 10 pages of history to read in one night, which could really stress them out,” said Pollaro, 42.

Typically, three or four students from each of the three sixth-grade classes achieve the 1-million-word mark.

This past school year, about 30 students met the goal, said Pollaro, who indicated that the average sixth-grade-level novel consists of 30,000 to 45,000 words.

Sam and Sofia Caloiero, 12-year-old twins, exceeded 1 million.

“I read about 30 books, and I don't think I've ever read that many before,” Sam said. “I became a faster reader, and now, I enjoy books a little more.”

Sofia said she was at a fourth-grade reading level before the Millionaires Club program.

“Now I'm at a ninth-grade reading level,” she said.

“In addition to building their self-esteem, the program helped develop an interest in all types of books and genres they otherwise wouldn't have tried,” said their mother, Amy Caloiero, 42, of Ross.

All three sixth-grade teachers rewarded their Millionaires Club members over the summer.

Falcettoni and Weaver treated their students to a get-together at a local Starbucks coffee shop; Pollaro hosted his students and their parents for a picnic at his home in Ross.

“I had 13 kids and 12 parents come on June 26,” Pollaro said. “It was an all-American cookout with grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad, a chocolate-chip-cookie cake and Rita's Italian Ice. Get it? Rita's — ‘Readers' — Italian Ice.”

During the picnic, students enjoyed playing whiffle ball and soccer in Pollaro's backyard alongside his three children, ages 4, 7 and 9.

“I often intertwine stories about my children throughout my class lessons, so my students get to know them in a sense,” he said. “Then, at the picnic, they get to actually meet them.”

“I remember being in sixth grade and wondering what my teacher's house, kids and lifestyle were like, so getting to see Mr. Pollaro's house and meet his family were really exciting for the kids,” said Jen Swab, 51, of Ross, who accompanied one of her quadruplets to the picnic.

Swab accompanied another two of her quadruplets to Starbucks for their class' celebration.

“The teachers bought whatever the kids wanted, and the kids would sit there and be all grown up,” she said.

Her daughter, Marie, 12, read 1.5 million words by the end of the school year and was awarded her first caramel frappuccino drink.

Even sweeter, said Pollaro, are the parent-teacher conferences in which parents tell him that they have to turn off their children's bedroom lights at night because their kids won't put their books down.

“That's when you know you're doing something right,” he said.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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