For RSS, March Madness is Reading Madness

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 3, 2015

By Jeanie Groh

March Madness isn’t just for basketball this year; it’s for reading too.

All Rowan-Salisbury elementary and middle schools put their own literacy-focused twist on the annual tournament.

“This time of the year is hard,” said Kelly Feimster, Rowan-Salisbury’s director of instructional programs, adding that they wanted to “spark that excitement for reading and literacy again.”

Each school had its own tournament bracket. At some schools, students voted on their favorite books, and others competed to see which homeroom could read the most minutes.

Students were also able to compete in a districtwide “Take a Shot” photography contest. Each day, students were assigned a different March Madness word to capture.

The festivities didn’t end with just a bracket, though.

Students kicked off the month by celebrating Read Across America Day on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Throughout the week, a variety of basketball and local celebrities read for the students, including Nolan Smith from Duke University, Dereck Whittenburg from North Carolina State University, Phil Ford from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Randolph Childress from Wake Forest University, Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody and WBTV’s David Whisenant.

Koontz Elementary students used their bracket to see which class could read the most minutes over the month of March, and Principal Dr. Mary Hemphill sweetened the pot by adding an extra incentive.

Hemphill and Assistant Principal Timothy Dryman promised the students that if they collectively read 100,000 minutes or more, they would dress like their favorite book characters and read a book from the school’s roof.

“I really wanted to challenge all my students to read,” Hemphill said. “They absolutely loved it.”

Not only did they meet their goal, but they “completely surpassed it,” she added.

Koontz Elementary students collectively read more than 170,000 minutes at home and at school over the month of March.

Even though rain threatened to ruin their plans, Hemphill and Dryman made the best of the wet weather and brought things indoors. Instead of reading from the roof, the pair dressed as Hermione Granger and Harry Potter from the “Harry Potter” and read from an overhang in the school’s library.

Hemphill said March Madness really helped motivate students to read, especially the most reluctant readers — boys.