Top Readers

Dillon Kalkhurst, president of the Ormond Beach Kiwanis Club, congratulates Skyla Dunn as Tabitha Smith walks by to receive her award during the Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge at Ormond Beach Elementary School on Friday, Oct. 25.

Ormond Beach Elementary School students reveled in the the Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge.

They logged the most minutes among Central Florida schools and third across the state.

The free online reading program is designed to help students turn the “summer slide” into a “summer leap” by discovering the joy of reading for fun. Over the course of 18 weeks, children can log their summer reading minutes online as they complete weekly reading challenges. The challenge is open to children throughout the U.S. and its territories.

“I am very excited to brag about my awesome school,” Principal Shannon Hay said. “The momentum of the Summer Reading Challenge has carried into the new school year. Our children are still motivated to read. Students who were once unmotivated to read loved tracking their minutes and exceeded our expectations. Our kids are ready for the next challenge!

“This proves that our community can directly impact the academic progress of a school,” she said. “The Ormond Beach Kiwanis Club has filled a gap in our school by addressing the 'summer slump' and providing quality literature in the hands of each child.”

Ormond Beach Elementary students read a total of 225,345 minutes during the challenge, which ran from May 6 to Sept. 6. Tops was Jeanne Neat's third grade class with a total of 64,577 minutes. She was helped by the top reading student in the school, third grader (now fourth grader) Karmella Wolfe who read 45,105 minutes.

Dillon Knight Kalkhurst, president of the Kiwanis Club, said, “We kicked it off in May by sponsoring their Book Fair and we allowed every one of the (350) students four free books to read over the summer and we even made it possible for the teachers to get 10 books as well for their classroom libraries.

“I worked at Scholastic for 10 years, so I am passionate about summer reading and getting books in the hands of kids and independent reading and reading for fun,” Mr. Kalkhurst said. “I know the research shows if you give a student the opportunity to select four books that are interesting to them and they read them over the summer then you can in essence stop what they call the ‘summer slide” which is a proven summer reading loss when kids don’t read.”

The club and school partnered with Scholastic and the Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge. Mr. Kalkhurst was involved with starting the program when he worked at Scholastic.

The students' reading accomplishment “was unbelievable for the first year of them doing this,” he said.

Kiwanis and the Scholastic Corp. have a longstanding partnership, according to Mr. Kalkhurst. “We decided we wanted to launch Kiwanis READS! We met with the school. It went so well we are going to be adding Osceola Elementary School next year. We’ll be helping Ormond Beach Elementary and Osceola Elementary with next summer’s Challenge,” he said.

Students were given a reading certificate to buy their books for the Challenge. If all the students in Ormond Beach that participated in the Challenge reached 250,000 minutes read, they would be given an ice cream party coordinated by Kiwanis, which happened Oct. 25 at Ormond Beach Elementary School. The goal was achieved and actually surpassed primarily due to Ormond Beach Elementary students. Winn Dixie in Ormond Beach donated the ice cream.

Mr. Kalhurst also stated The Kiwanis READS! program was highlighted at the Kiwanis Florida District Annual Convention. There could be as many as 25 Florida Kiwanis Clubs launching Kiwanis READS! and sponsoring a school in their communities next year. The Kiwanis Flagler-Volusia County Division 7 has made Kiwanis READS! a division project this year. He hopes all seven clubs in the division will sponsor a school.

The Scholastic Corporation is well-known for sponsoring book fairs and is possibly the largest publisher of children’s books. The three goals of the Kiwanis READS! Program are to build home libraries, build classroom libraries and build a culture of independent reading across Ormond Beach and Volusia County.

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