McPolin Elementary teams up to read |

McPolin Elementary teams up to read

McPolin Elementary School is chasing a lofty goal.

The school is participating in "Be a Team Player — Read," a reading contest the Utah Jazz puts on annually. The 10 schools whose students log the most reading minutes will win a visit from a Jazz player and an ice cream party.

But regardless of whether it wins the contest, McPolin Elementary has set its own standard for success: 250,000 minutes of reading, which equals just more than 20 minutes per day throughout the contest from each student.

Brian Kretschmar, literacy specialist at the school, said winning the contest is less important than the opportunity to encourage students to form good reading habits.

"If we are one of the top 10 schools, that’d be great," he said. "We’d be excited to have a Jazz player come. But I know we’ll do something either way, even if we aren’t one of the top 10 schools, as long as we reach our goal."

The school held a kick-off event Jan. 14 to educate parents and students about the contest, which runs until Feb. 13. Highlighting the event was a reading of the children’s book "High-5 Park City" from Diego Zegarra and Becca Gerber, who helped create the book. Parents also got the chance to learn tips to help their students read. Then, they read with them.

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"The coolest part of the event is when we actually had students and parents go back in the classrooms and read," Kretschmar said, adding he hopes to organize more events throughout the contest, such as having local firefighters or police officers reading to students. "It was just really exciting to see parents interacting with their kids."

Kretschmar said the students were excited by the prospect of having a Jazz player come to their school.

"Obviously we have a lot of winter sports athletes up here, but we still have a lot of kids who are in the Junior Jazz program and who are on basketball teams and follow the Jazz," he said. "We would be excited to have one of those really tall basketball players come into our school."

But more important are the lessons learned throughout the contest. Kretschmar hopes students discover how fun daily reading can be.

"It’s hugely important," he said. "We’re creating a daily habit. Instead of always turning to the TV or video games or other sources of entertainment, you can choose a book. You can be pulled into the plot and story of a book and be just as engaged, or even more, than you can with a TV show."