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Reading can be a hair-raising experience

Mint Canyon Elementary School staff, students hold a battle of the books

Posted: November 24, 2008 9:18 p.m.
Updated: November 25, 2008 4:30 a.m.

From left to right: Karen Kraut, Raquel Cadena-Munoz, Collette Snider, Principal Betsy Letzo and librarian Rachele Horney bet against Mint Canyon Elementary School students to see who could read the most books within a certain period of time. The Mint Canyon staff lost the wager and had to sport Mohawks all day Monday.

It's happened before - Mint Canyon Elementary School Principal Betsy Letzo has come up with some pretty wild ideas. But none have been as hair-raising as her latest reading-enhancement scheme.

These were the conditions: If students could read and pass comprehension tests on more books that their teachers, the teachers had to sport a Mohawk for a day.

Participating faculty lost the heated competition and walked around campus Monday with their hair sprayed into long, stiff, colorful Mohawks.

The students-versus-staff Accelerated Reader competition took 12 weeks to complete and student competitors in second through sixth grades were fiercely serious about the monumental task of out-reading their teacher counterparts.

Though librarian Rachele Horney read her way through 25 novels, then passed Web-based comprehension tests just like her students did, Horney offered no match.

Fourth-grader Oscar Camas, 9, enjoyed the "Fluffy, the Classroom Guinea Pig," series, which features a very smart rodent who tells stories of his school adventures.

For Camas, competing against the school principal inspired him to excel.

"What motivated me was when I found out that if we won, the teachers get Mohawks," Camas said. "I was nervous about it. When I went to lunch I always went to the back to check the board (tallying scores.)"

Fifth-grader Yaw Mensah, 10, had little problem over-shooting his reading goal by 900 percent. His passion for "Harry Potter" books made it easy to get lost in the fantasy series Mensah said he devoured after his regular work was completed.

Third-grader Maria Leal, 9, found her joy in reading a series about the life of June B. Jones, first-grader extraordinaire.

Leal's very favorite title is "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, (P.S. So Does May)," which highlights holiday time and spying, peeping, tattling fellow student May.

Second-grader Erick Chimal, 7, is learning to read in English and Spanish. At school, Chimal indulges in the "Goosebumps" series, but he said they don't scare him one bit.

At home, his mother is teaching him how to read in Spanish.

Though Chimal said he keeps forgetting the Spanish words in the books his mother reads him, he is thankful he "has such a good mom" who is taking the time.

Well-spoken Lili McNelly, 11, is in sixth grade. Reading has been a constant pleasure from the birth of her elementary education.

Her father's influence challenged and changed her, she said.

"I remember that when I was in kindergarten my dad would read books to me when I'd go to bed," McNelly said. That is when she fell in love with the art of storytelling.

Now McNelly loves to read all kinds of books. Her latest passion is the Stephanie Meyers' "Twilight Saga" series.

Even though she read "all the books already," McNelly said she ran out to see "Twilight," the movie, last weekend.

The purpose of Mint Canyon Elementary School's first trimester competition was to encourage students to read, said Letzo.

"They were setting goals for themselves and then attaining them," she said.

Letzo said the school's encouragement of reading is most successful when parents are involved.

"People ask me, ‘What can I do to help my child?' And my answer is always: ‘read,'" she said. "Read, read, read. It's the single most important thing they can do."


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