Turning new pages at the millennium

Challenge: Pupils at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School are ringing in the new year by trying to read 2,000 by 2000.

November 07, 1999|By Diane B. Mikulis | Diane B. Mikulis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pupils at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School near Ellicott City are preparing for the year 2000. But they're not stocking up on supplies or planning parties -- they're busy reading.

Teachers there have challenged each child in kindergarten through the fifth grade to meet a goal of reading 2,000 pages before Jan. 1. With a school population of 620, that means Triadelphia Ridge pupils could read 1,240,000 pages. The pupils fill out monthly calendars indicating the number of pages they read at home each day. The numbers are added to calculate a total for each grade. Then, once a month, a special "millennium ball" is moved down a supporting rod to mark the number of pages turned and read.

The plan is for each grade's ball to reach the bottom -- Times Square style -- once the December numbers are tallied. That is planned to take place a little after the traditional New Year's Eve event -- when the pupils return to class in early January.

Reading specialist Fran Clay devised Read 2000 during the summer. After discussing it with Principal Sue Webster and teachers on the school's language arts committee, the details were worked out -- including use of a ball for each grade to make the process more visual and create a Times Square effect.

"We wanted to capture the excitement of the millennium and provide an opportunity for the children to work as a community to achieve a reading goal," Clay said.

Originally the plan was for each pupil to read 1,000 pages at home and 1,000 in school. But because most grades were halfway to their goals after September's pages were totaled, the challenge was doubled in October. Each pupil was challenged to read 2,000 pages at home.

Younger children can have pages read to them. Families are responsible for helping their children read or listen to pages of books, newspapers, magazines -- even recipes.

"We also wanted to be able to bring in other curricular areas," Clay said. "The teachers incorporate math as they discuss estimating and predicting the total number of pages read."

Individual totals are tracked as well as class totals. Each grade has a parent coordinator who keeps up the records.

At a ball-lowering celebration in first grade, Clay announced that its 91 pupils had read 48,676 pages for September.

"Wow," the pupils said in unison.

Clay moved the ball down to the 48,000 marker. She then asked the children, "What do you think will happen to you as readers by the time we get to the end?"

"We're going to be professional readers," said 6-year-old Amelia Baranowski.

Down the hall in second grade, 118 pupils gathered on the floor to learn the results of their month of reading.

Teacher Monica Diaz led the students in math computations to calculate the number of pages that must be read each month per pupil and the total to be read by the grade.

After a few other exercises, the pupils learned that they had read 56,783 pages. This was nearly halfway to their original goal and a quarter of the way to the new target.

After the calculations and discussion, the second-graders were ready to lower their ball. Laila Kadir Handoo was selected to perform the honor. Everyone clapped as she pushed the ball into the position closest to 57,000.

Similar celebrations have taken place in every grade each, and the latest school-wide tally -- through October -- is 583,044 pages.

Besides becoming "professional readers," the children are looking forward to a party in January celebrating their accomplishment.

Clay noted that all the efforts support the TRES motto: "Terrific Readers Experience Success."

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