Jennings Weekley reads way to Harlem Globetrotter tickets

By KAITLIN GEBBY
Posted 1/17/20

A sitcom episode is around 20 minutes long. Most chores or personal tasks take 20 minutes or less. In addition, adults and children alike spend multiple hours each day, heads down, staring at phones …

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Jennings Weekley reads way to Harlem Globetrotter tickets

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A sitcom episode is around 20 minutes long. Most chores or personal tasks take 20 minutes or less. In addition, adults and children alike spend multiple hours each day, heads down, staring at phones and computer screens. Instead of Netflix, housework or screen time, what if those 20 minutes were used for reading a book instead? 

Bradley County Schools students have pledged 20 minutes each day to reading, either by themselves, aloud to someone or being read aloud to by a family member, and the schools are offering incentives to keep them motivated. 

The Read 20 in 2020 campaign kicked off before Christmas break. Students were encouraged to hit the books and post a picture of themselves reading or being read to using the hashtag #Read20in2020 on Facebook or Twitter. The prize for doing so was a set of Harlem Globetrotter tickets in Chattanooga on Jan. 17. 

Last Monday, Michigan Avenue Elementary School student Jennings Weekley won the coveted Harlem Globetrotter tickets for his dedication to his 2020 pledge. Tonight, he and his family will head to Chattanooga to see the Globetrotters in McKenzie Arena, all because Jennings loves to read. 


Principal Robbie Winters said Jennings is “a real good kid,” and that he was “well deserving” of this prize. 

Jennings accepted his prize, courtesy of Mix 104.1, with a visit to the radio station on Monday, where he smiled alongside his brother Andrew. He won for his picture of him, head down, reading the book, “Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea,” by Ben Clanton while sitting in the back seat of his family’s car. 

His teacher, Missy Welch, said Jennings is a “model student” and is always respectful of when it is time to learn and when it is time to play. She said he “loves a challenge,” and gets eager for the math puzzles she writes on the board in his first-grade classroom. 

At home, his parents encourage reading anywhere and all the time, Jenning’s dad, Josh Weekley, said. 

After visiting the radio station, Welch said she didn’t see or hear him mention the prize to anyone at school.

His father said  he’s very humble, and  he only told his basketball coach about the prize after he found out what he'd won. 


Jennings usually brings home library books about animals, his dad said. Right now, Weekley's son enjoys reading “Who Would Win?” books, which take fierce, ferocious predators and explains which would win in a fight by using a breakdown of their anatomy and skills. The family makes sure to keep a healthy supply of books in the car, too, where Jennings was seen reading in his prize-winning photo. 


But the Read 20 program is about more than winning tickets. Research supports that reading to, or with, your child each day improves academic performance, but helps create a stable and supportive home environment for them to thrive. 


“Research tells us that children who read at or above grade level by the end of third grade have a better chance for success,” Sheena Newman, director of special projects and elementary instruction, said. 


Newman included the purpose of Read 20 is to “ensure every child learns to read early and well, thereby reaching their full potential in school and life.” 


They also want to encourage families to read by educating them about their “important role in raising a reader and in preparing their children for kindergarten.” 


Other programs, like the Advanced Reading program, offer field trip incentives for students as they collect points for the books and comprehension quizzes they complete.

Welch said she and other teachers work on comprehension through sensory activities that “involve” her students in the story and its characters. 


Weekley said he’s not only grateful for the tickets, but also for the fun the school brings to reading. 


“I’m so thankful to Bradley County Schools for these tickets and really taking the initiative to make reading fun for my kids,” he said. 


As for the game, Weekley said Jennings has been counting down the days to tip off. 

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