Volunteers help kick off read-a-thon at Trailside Elementary
It was a collection of some of the most accomplished residents in Park City. There were decorated Olympic athletes, esteemed business leaders, a former Congressional candidate and even a world-class sailor.
They were gathered for one purpose Monday morning at Trailside Elementary School: to help inspire a love of reading in children. The school was holding a kick-off event for its four-week read-a-thon, and after a short assembly, each volunteer resident went to a classroom and read a book to the students.
"This means everything to the kids," said Heidi Kaiserman, a second-grade teacher at the school. "It gets them excited about reading and helps them jump up and read every single night. They see all these people who have so many great accomplishments, but are still just regular people, and I think it inspires the kids. They know they can start off wherever and read for as long as they can and enjoy it."
Robin Williams, principal of the school, said the kick-off event is the perfect way to get the kids to crack open books. They end the day energized and eager to participate in the read-a-thon.
"I know that having people from our community come in to read with children connects the kids with people they aspire to be like," Williams said. "That’s a big part of it."
The excitement for reading that results from the kick-off is a trait the school hopes to capitalize on and foster as the school year progresses. Williams said that it doesn’t take long for many students to develop a love of reading if they give it an earnest chance.
"Two things happen with our youngest readers," she said. "First of all, many kids are hungry for knowledge, so they love informational text. Boys seem to love books on spiders and all things of animals, and a lot of our girls do as well and they start learning about things like space, and that opens a lot of possibilities. But the other thing that happens is a love of literature. They get exposed to those books early on that create wonder and that enjoyment factor. Both of those feed into lifelong readers, both for information and pleasure."
Rick Brent, one of the volunteer residents, showed students in Kaiserman’s second-grade class photos from his time as a competitive yacht sailor before reading a book to the class. He said it was a "special" event to be a part of and that he wanted to make a difference for at least one child.
"It’s an honor to be able to read to kids," he said. "It’s a great gift to be able to read, and to be able to impart some of that on them, perhaps inspire them to read more, is great. Anything we can do to inspire our youth and give them stories they can relate to everyday life is special.
"If you can get through to even one, it’s amazing," he added. "So the hope is to get through to one, but I think you can get through to more than one. You really can. You just have to get engaged with them, get down to their level."
As far as the rest of the read-a-thon, the school has a lofty goal in sight as it pushes students to read as much as they can over the next four weeks. For every 30 minutes a student reads, he or she gets to create a link in a paper chain that will be strung around the school. Williams said she is hopeful the chain will eventually wrap around the entire building.
In addition, classes will be competing with one another to see which can read the most.
"They’re all pumped up and ready to go," Kaiserman said. "It’s, ‘Our class is going to do this. We’re going to read and win.’ But more importantly, they see reading and finishing a book as quite an accomplishment for themselves."
A Park City High School senior facing 18 criminal charges admitted to releasing pepper spray in the school’s lecture hall last month to prevent a conservative school club from hosting an event.