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Sports-themed reading challenge invigorates Center Elementary students

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Plum Advance Leader
Farrah Susko, first grade student at Center Elementary, proudly displays a Terrible Towel representing her team in the school's reading program 'Booksburgh.'
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Plum Advance Leader
Center Elementary students gather for an assembly launching the school's reading program.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Plum Advance Leader
Center Elementary students gather for an assembly last week to launch the school's reading program.

Students at Center Elementary love their Pittsburgh sports teams.

The youngsters last week discovered they can combine their love of the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins with their hunger for knowledge.

Principal Jeff Hadley kicked off the school's reading-incentive program, “Booksburgh, City of Reading Champions,” during a Friday-afternoon assembly.

The program is a competition in which three teams of students in kindergarten through the sixth grade will square off with the goal of reading the most books.

To qualify, the students are required to score 80 percent or better on the accelerated reading exam that tests students' knowledge of a book's content.

The three teams, which all have their own spirit towels, are named after the city's pro sports teams.

The results will be tallied weekly, and the team that has the most books will have the team name posted on the Booksburgh wall outside the principal's office.

The teams comprise students in each of the grades. The teams will be changed at the beginning of each grading period throughout the school year.

Hadley plans to announce the winning team at the end of each contest.

Trophies will be awarded to the winning teams.

“You are the champions,” Hadley told the students as they cheered while watching video of highlights of their favorite Pittsburgh sports heroes. “Keep on reading, and see you in Booksburgh.”

Last year, students competed in the reading competition for a spot on a “Survivor”-style Center Island.

Hadley said the students' goal this year is 13,000 books including 150 million words. Last year, the youngsters read 12,000 books containing 140 million words. The school has about 400 students.

Hadley said he wants the competition to motivate students to read more, as well as increase their love of reading and their performance on the reading portion of state tests in the spring.

“You need to keep reading to help your team,” Hadley told the youngsters.

“We will become the school of reading champions. Take your towels back to your classroom, and be excited about reading.”

Lizzie Goodman, 11, a sixth-grader, said she is a big Steelers fan and enjoys reading.

“I like this program,” said Goodman, Student Government vice president.

“It's creative.”

Lizzie said she hopes to beat her tally of reading 15 books last year.

Cole Keely, 11, said the incentive program makes students better readers.

“It makes a huge impact on everyone,” said Keely, who last year read 35 books.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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