Passport to Reading program ready for second year

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The world of books is one that must be experienced in its entirety to be fully appreciated.

Those who read mysteries might take a break from the whodunits to brush up on historical figures. A lover of alien adventures might try a few pages of Shakespeare from time to time.

If you’re a student of Moffat County elementary schools, the payoff of expanding into the Passport to Reading program could take you into every genre of books near and far.

The program gives students a mock passport where they get a stamp for every book they read, much like travelers get a stamp in their passports for every country they visit.

The success of the Passport to Reading program for area students during the 2012-2013 academic year will hopefully carry on once school begins again. That’s the objective of James Neton, who first developed the reading motivation project last year.

Neton, a librarian with Moffat County High School, presented the results from the year to members of the Craig Rotary Club, which helped provide funding for the endeavor, at their Tuesday morning meeting. The program kept track of fourth and fifth-graders’ reading habits by giving them a stamp for every book read in a variety of genres in their own personal passport.

Out of the 315 students from Sandrock, Ridgeview, East and Sunset Elementary Schools who participated, 158 achieved the goal of 20 stamps out of a possible 33.

Even though half the kids involved didn’t complete the full goal of 20 stamps per pupil for a total of 6,300, students still collected 5,733 stamps overall, for a 91 percent success rate.

Neton said most students who didn’t make the mark received between 12 and 15 stamps. He also received several comments that students would have preferred the minimum number would have been lower. It was this reaction that let Neton know he had set the right standard for the program.

“I think having 20 (as the minimum) really helped push these kids,” he said.

The difficulty for many students was in getting out of their comfort zone. While most attained all of the seven fiction stamps in their passports, few attempted categories like poetry and drama.

Rotary member David Pressgrove said he appreciated the aim of increasing students’ reading diversity.

“I had a parent tell me, ‘My son only reads this kind of book,’ but the purpose of this was to expand their horizons,” he said.

Neton said while some balked at trying something new, others welcomed the opportunity.

“It motivated a lot of them to read in other areas, which is just what we want,” he said.

Kids were also able to weigh in on what kinds of books they’d like to have available to them. Passport to Reading received about $5,000 — from the Rotary Club, Friends of Moffat County Education and the Human Resources Council of Moffat County United Way — for the year’s budget to further enhance the elementary libraries, as well as the prizes for the top readers and the barbecue hosted in May for all those who made the 20-book minimum.

Children entering fifth-grade who didn’t get as many stamps as they could have while in fourth-grade might want to hit the books as quickly as possible. As the end-of-year incentive, Neton hopes to organize a day trip to tour the interactive Colorado History Museum in Denver.

“We’ll probably flip that every year so the kids have a different goal every year,” he said.

Neton said he’d like to expand the program for different ages, but the difficulty in promoting books to any age group is continuing to upgrade the libraries.

“If we tell kids reading is important, their library has to be keyed into what those students see in their world and what’s important to them,” he said.

Another concern is the continuing plight of librarians across the world — promoting paper books versus what can be read on a computer screen.

“Electronic media has shortened attention spans so reading has become a more truncated experience at times, so we’re trying to keep them focused on reading longer pieces of literature,” Neton said. “We’re not fighting digital reading, we just want them reading longer books, not quick, cursory, Web-surfing stuff.”

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@craigdailypress.com.

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