Passport to Reading hits goal of 6,000 books in third year |

Passport to Reading hits goal of 6,000 books in third year

179 Craig elementary students party hearty at program’s reward barbecue

Craig elementary school students perform the dance routine to the Village People's "Y.M.C.A." while awaiting their buses following the Passport to Reading barbecue.

Some say the journey is more important than the destination, but for the young bookworms of Passport to Reading, the two went hand in hand this year.

In its third year, Passport had the best overall results yet, with fourth- and fifth-grade readers collecting a record 6,066 books read throughout the school year to surpass the goal of 6,000. More than 175 kids from East, Ridgeview, Sandrock and Sunset elementary schools were able to attend the barbecue Wednesday that served as reward for all who had achieved a minimum of 20 books read from cover to cover from the fall to the spring.

For each book students perused, they received a stamp in a mock passport, with different sections for different genres of literature, the foundation of the program to get kids well-rounded in their reading habits and discovering new things in the world around them.

Joe Padon, librarian for Moffat County High School, took the reins as organizer from creator James Neton last fall.

"Neton made a pretty good foundation for me, it's been such a success," Padon said.

After some fun and games and music, kids raced to grab some hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill at the Moffat County Fairgrounds picnic area provided by volunteers from Rotary Club of Craig, who, along with Friends of Moffat County Education, provided funding for Passport, as well as for the purchase of more books in the school libraries. After eating, students settled down to hear which of them had achieved the most.

Recommended Stories For You

Each school acknowledged their three readers who had obtained the most stamps throughout the year, as well as those in each grade level who had come the furthest in their reading skills.

Gift certificates donated by Downtown Books served as the prizes for second and third place and Most Improved, while first place finishers got a little something extra to enhance their experience — a Kindle e-reader to download a multitude of books online.

Cayden King, Sadie Smilanich, Nicholas Crookston and Linkyn McCormick each received one of the Amazon gadgets, which also served as the grand prize for the top overall reader of the year, complete with an extra power adapter and carrying case.

For the second year in a row, Sunset's Kaia Gunderson claimed the highest honor in Passport, though the fifth-grader increased her efforts this time, going from last year's 169 to 259 during the school year.

She was struck speechless when receiving her prize and couldn't help shedding a few tears of joy at winning again.

"I was very, very shocked," she laughed as she received congratulations from her friends and classmates.

Kaia said one of her interests this year was reading about science, particularly insects and other parts of nature.

"Anything that's outside," she said.

Kaia's mother, Tilila, was on hand to see her daughter accept the award, a point of pride for the mom who works in Sunset's library.

"She made a goal of 200 and just kept going, the rest was for fun," Tilila said. "We like to read in our family, it's important for us."

Sunset fourth-grade teacher Mary Blakeman's entire class qualified for the barbecue, a feat she attributed to reading enhancement programs such as ACE and AR 360, as well as kids' own desires to read more and more.

"They're so self-motivated," she said proudly.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or

Passport to Reading results

179 fourth- and fifth-grade students from East, Ridgeview, Sandrock and Sunset elementary schools qualified for the year-end barbecue by earning at least 20 stamps — each representing one book — in their program passports, all students involved in the program tabulated a total of 6,066 stamps during the school year.

Grand prize winner

Kaia Gunderson, Sunset

Top readers by school

• East

  1. Cayden King
  2. Kori Deaton
  3. Emma Villard

• Ridgeview

  1. Sadie Smilanich
  2. Haley Boatman
  3. Marlee Fedinec

• Sandrock

  1. Nicholas Crookston
  2. Gabriel Lopez
  3. Sydni King

• Sunset

  1. Linkyn McCormick
  2. Evan Atkins
  3. Billy Lawton

Most improved readers by school

• East

Fourth-grade — Mary Willems

Fifth-grade — Madason Laman

• Ridgeview

Fourth-grade — Leo Landa

Fifth-grade — Ethan Hafey, Daniel Running

• Sandrock

Fourth-grade — Avery Chadd

Fifth-grade — Gabriel Lopez

• Sunset

Fourth-grade — Olivia Rising

Fifth-grade — Kasen Tansey