Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam was a special guest at Waterville Community Elementary School Friday to launch the school’s participation in her Read 20 Book Club.
“I want to tell you how proud I am that you guys are trying to read 20 minutes everyday,” Haslam told the students. “Reading 20 minutes a day will make you a stronger reader.”
The first lady was escorted into the school by students Emily Klaver and Turner Davidson. Principal Charlene Cofer said the students were chosen by the school counselor. Emily was Waterville’s top Accelerated Reader last year.
“We are very, very proud of them,” Cofer said.
Haslam was introduced to the crowd of excited students in Waterville’s gymnasium by Bradley County director of schools Johnny McDaniel.
“As the first lady of Tennessee Crissy, has introduced a three- part initiative that focuses on the interplay between families, family engagement and literacy improvement,” McDaniel said.
Part of that initiative is the Read 20 Book Club, which encourages students to read or be read to 20 minutes each day.
Reading 20 minutes each day has long been encouraged by the teachers and administration at WCES. Now that encouragement is taking a more uniform look and providing some additional support through the book club.
“If you read 20 minutes a day, then in a year you will have read 121 hours, and you are going to be much more likely to be successful in school,” Haslam said.
She said it was important for students to be a good readers by the third grade in order to stay on track in school. Yet, she emphasized to the fourth- and fifth-graders that if they were not strong readers, they could catch up.
“Sometimes I meet kids who don’t like to read or they don’t know they like to read yet, and I tell them, ‘You just have to find the kind of book that you like,’’’ Haslam said.
The First Lady’s Read 20 Book Club is run through her page on the state website. Each month features a book and questions or activities to go along with it.
She said the state library helps her choose the book each month.
“I want them to be available in libraries across the state,” Haslam said. “I don’t want people to have to go out and buy these books.”
As part of the special day, students were also treated to a “word storm.” Shawn Kurrelmeier-Lee of Read 20 referred to it as Read 20’s version of a “flash mob.” Teachers spread out across the gymnasium took turns reading a part of Dr. Suess’ “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!” Teachers illustrated sections of the books with actions and props.
Haslam signed copy of Dr. Suess’ “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!” for the school. She also gave students bookmarks and stickers about the book club.
“We also brought some extra books that the principal can use however she wants to,” Haslam said.
Cofer said she was thankful for the parent support for the program. Cofer said the new program works with the schools current Accelerated Reader program because students could read an AR book for 20 minutes a day.
The Read 20 initiative is encouraged through monthly readings Haslam does across the state of the featured book.