Last school year, Ruskin Elementary School students accepted a challenge from Mrs. Tonya Dixon, Ruskin Media Specialist, to read 20,000 books by the end of the school year. Although it was not an easy challenge, the students were determined they would succeed.
Teachers, staff members, and Principal Solomon worked alongside Mrs. Dixon to motivate students along the way. For every ten Accelerated Reader (AR) points earned, students could spin the magnificent AR Wheel to win rewards such as participating on patrol duty with SRO Durrance, receiving a free book, and picking a prize from the treasure box. Teachers also motivated students by offering prizes once they hit a certain number of AR points. Classes also earned parties to celebrate the class earning a certain number of AR points.
Ruskin’s very own mascot, Jiggy the Jaguar, also helped motivate students in their quest to read 20,000 books. Students could walk down the hall and see Jiggy reading a book. Jiggy also took pictures with students reading. Students were always excited to see Jiggy reading. Since Jiggy read books, students were inspired to read as well.
In order to make the goal tangible, each homeroom class was charged with reading 1,000 books. The class that set the pace for the race to 1,000 was Mr. Dillon Durrance’s 3rd Grade PAWS class. Many of the other Jaguar classes rose up and went beyond 1,000 books and earned membership in the 1,000 Book Club, including: Mrs. Heather Boggs (Kindergarten - 4,395 books), Mrs. Janet McClellan (Kindergarten -2,910 books), Mrs. Buffi Smith (Kindergarten - 2,294 books), Mrs. Christina Hostetter (1st Grade - 1,502 books), Mrs. Gloria Roberts (1st Grade - 1,163 books), Mrs. Kim Woodard (1st Grade -1,219 books), Miss Casey Bazemore (2nd Grade - 2,158 books), Mrs. Michelle Guy (3rd Grade - 1,078 books), Mr. Dillon Durrance (3rd Grade - 1,786 books), Mrs. Marika Briggs (4th Grade - 1,194 books), Mrs. Anita Sapp (4th Grade - 1,565 books), Mrs. Amber DeLoach (5th Grade - 1,247 books), Mrs. Tanya Hodges (5th Grade - 1,134 books), and Mr. James Newton (5th Grade - 1,009 books).
Even with those staggering numbers, the 20,000 Book Challenge was still dangling just outside the Jaguars' reach. Though many classes completed their 1,000 book goal, the mighty Jaguars were not done yet.
The month of March started out like any other month, but little did anyone know, it would be a month to remember! Students broke out in exuberant cheers when they heard Principal Solomon announce that they had exceeded the 20,000 Book Challenge. After working so hard, the Ruskin Jaguars took a day to “Chill Out and Read.” On this day, students wore their pajamas to school, took pictures in the photo booth, compared a movie to a book, ate popcorn, and read all day! Ruskin students will never forget this day.
The administration celebrated students' success even more by awarding a pizza party to the homeroom to read the most books in Kindergarten-2nd Grade and 3rd - 5th Grade. The top two classes were Mrs. Heather Boggs (Kindergarten) with 4,395 books and Mr. Dillon Durrance (3rd Grade) with 1,786 books.
Throughout the reading challenge, there were two students who went over and beyond to earn the most AR points out of Kindergarten-2nd Grade students and 3rd - 5th Grade students. Autumn C. (Kindergarten - 290 points) and Charles H. (Fourth Grade - 305 points) were recognized as the top readers in those grade bands and earned the right to put a pie in the face of a teacher. The students voted on the teacher, and the winner of the delicious pie was 5th Grade teacher Mr. James Newton.
In a year full of unknown challenges, Ruskin Jaguars proved time after time that there is no challenge they cannot beat. Whatever obstacle or challenge may arise, Ruskin Elementary School students always rise up!
Donna Solomon is the principal of Ruskin Elementary School.
Left to Right: Khoda W., Avery C., Ashton V., and Joana E. show off their book selections.