“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child,” said Mary Ellen Chase, one of the most influential New England authors of the twentieth century. Providence Academy believes, just as Chase did, that reading is an essential part of every student’s education, particularly in their lower school years. Students have a designated period almost every day for reading, as well as weekly trips to the library. From books about dragons to classics such as “Sherlock Holmes” and “Robinson Crusoe,” lower schoolers have access to a variety of literature that can fuel their imaginations and their love of reading.
This is where the yearly Director’s Reading Challenge (DRC) comes into play. The challenge is tailored to each grade’s reading level, usually requiring that students read a certain number of minutes each night or a certain amount of pages each month. Lower School Director Mrs. Nancy Galgano, began this program about twenty years ago as a challenge for the lower school class she was teaching at the time.
Galgano explained, “I had special books that I ordered and when a student reached a certain level, they would get to keep a book from my own collection. Then at the end of the year, students would get a little prize for reading a certain number of nights each month.”
All of that changed because of one student who truly loved to read. “There was one boy who read every single day of the year,” Galgano recalled. “For that boy, I started giving out the medal because it was an extraordinary commitment and because it was so extraordinary, it was an inspiration for other students, who began to do the same thing.”
Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sarah Evens, is one of many teacher who play an essential role in the reading journey of lower schoolers. She underlines the importance of the DRC in leading students towards a lifelong passion. “I believe [the challenge] creates that love of reading because it becomes like a habit,” Evens explained.
“It changes the mindset from having to read to wanting to read by putting the choice in students’ hands.” Evens continued.
Galgano agrees with Evens, noting, “We make it a challenge because it’s mostly voluntary, so it excites the kids and motivates them. [The incentive] makes reading more fun!” She continued by saying that even though the ultimate prize may be a medal or a star-shaped pin, “The reading challenge is not meant for people to get a medal, but to build the habit of reading, which is so important to their future.”
While some lower school students may identify the DRC as another piece of homework, third-grader Thomas O’Grady finds this a delightful part of his life. “I like it because you get the pins and the medals, but my favorite part is that I get an excuse to read,” he commented.
As a student who is known for reading all the time, sometimes even in class, it’s no surprise that O’Grady truly loves reading. “I like that characters get to go on cool adventures. In my favorite book “Dragonwatch”, the two main characters get to fight evil dragons to protect humans, and I know that won’t ever happen to me, so I like reading about it,” he said.
With another successful year of the Director’s Reading Challenge coming to an end last Friday, it is more important than ever to remember the power that reading has in shaping a child’s future, and that nothing can substitute it.