MINOOKA – For the second year in a row, Walnut Trails Elementary School has won the Scholastic Best in State award for its summer reading program.
The school, within the Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201, blew away its previous total of number of minutes read from 280,000 minutes in 2017 to over 860,000 minutes in 2018.
“The kids were encouraged and they knew how it felt to win last year. I think they wanted to maintain their ranking and not want anyone else to surpass them,” principal Kathleen Cheshareck said.
The past six years, the school has taken part in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, which runs from May to September. Students who wish to participate, log into a web site and log minutes read over the time period. The students competed with other schools in the state and with each other to win prizes.
Librarian May Lou Romashko said throughout the school year, she talked about the summer reading program in order to get the students excited. Over the summer, she sent out weekly emails to parents to remind them to sign up and encourage the children to read. Romashko said she even had parents contact her when they couldn’t get logged in when they were on vacation.
Throughout the program, the school offered the students incentives such as the first to read over 1,000 minutes received book fair prizes and 40 students met that challenge. Cheshareck said if they reached the 300,000 minute goal she would go on the roof, which had to be rescheduled due to rain, and the students knew there would be a myriad of prizes for top readers, as in the past.
“Reading helps with everything you do, it’s a part of everyday life,” Romashko said.
After the numbers were tallied by Scholastic and the school was informed of its first place status, an assembly was held on Oct. 5 for the student, staff and parents in order to announce the first place achievement and pass out the awards to the top readers.
On top of the 40 prizes given out earlier, 101 students received prizes awarded by the Parent Teacher Organization and the top two received a larger prize. Second grade student Lucy Stenzel won first place with 14,636 minutes and second place when to fourth grade student Gibson Urban with 14, 392 minutes. The students received a Kindle Fire, purchased by the school.
“I feel like I’m going to pass out, I had a good feeling I would win," Urban said after he won the Kindle Fire. "I started reading graphic novels, but then my mom said I had to read regular novels too. Some days I played with friends a lot and didn’t have time to read, and other days I read all day.”
Stenzel said her books of choice were “Magic Tree House” and “Puppy Place” and she said, “I’m happy and I’m excited that I won a Kindle Fire.”
Cheshareck said after she found out the school won and exceeded the minutes in such a large way, she was full of pride in her students.
“I’m proud of my students because they established a love of reading on their own over the summer. This will increase their reading skills and hopefully they become life long readers. Mrs. Romashko spent a lot of extra time and goes above and beyond,” Cheshareck said.
This school year will mark the last year Romashko will walk through the doors of the school as the librarian. She will retire from the district with 21 years of service, 16 as the librarian at Walnut Trails Elementary and Jones Elementary schools.
“I have mixed emotions. Part of me does not want to leave, I ‘m definitely going to miss it. I hope I made an impression on the kids and show them that they can reach a goal. Our original goal was 300,000 minutes and we logged over 860,000 minutes,” Romashko said. “My time here has been enjoyable; it’s something I’ll always cherish.”