Hot air balloon rides for students give reading incentive program a lift

September 12, 1995|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

West Meade Elementary School's reading program got off the ground yesterday as a red, white and yellow hot air balloon carried 12 students aloft for a bird's-eye view of their school as classmates and parents watched from the playground.

Afterward, the school's reading specialist, Linda Rayman, passed out reading journals -- manila folders with four pages stapled inside to keep track of every book students will read by themselves, with their parents or teachers.

"What we're trying to do is motivate students to read not just in the classroom but at home," said Mrs. Rayman, who organizes the program with Principal Barbara Mason and Guidance Counselor Kendra Navarro.

Last year, West Meade students read more than 22,000 books in the yearlong "Up, Up and Away" reading program, an average of 122 books a day in the 180-day school cycle.

The program is one of many formed in county schools to give students an incentive to read, said Joseph Czarnecki, the county schools' coordinator of reading and language arts. West Meade administrators said they hope yesterday's balloon launch, sponsored by pilot Carl Strobel, would inspire students to read even more.

"I feel if you can read, you can be successful at anything you do," Ms. Mason said.

Teachers randomly selected two pupils from each grade for the ride yesterday. When this school year is over, the two from each grade who have read the most books will get the balloon ride.

The first pupil in the wicker basket yesterday was first-grader Quinten Stearns, who was joined by Carol S. Parham, the county school superintendent. The balloon had a little trouble taking off because of the wind. Rides had to be shortened, but that didn't stop Quinten and students from getting their hopes high.

wish I can go up again," he announced after hopping out and sprinting into his mother's arms. Quinten, who learned to read this summer, immediately pledged to read 101 books.

Even Vi Pham, West Meade's most well-read student, found more reason to read after watching the balloon take flight. She read 539 books last year.

"I might go to the library again today," said the fourth-grader. "I might just check a few books. . . . It's fun to read, and you get to learn more."

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