Passport to Reading makes another trip around Moffat County schools |

Passport to Reading makes another trip around Moffat County schools

Sunset Elementary fourth-graders Edith Palacious, Alexis Jones, Judith Hernandez and Emagene Schlim roast marshmallows with the help of parent Misty Jones, left, and grandparent Julie Hanna, back, under the moonlight at the Passport to Reading kickoff Tuesday night at Sunset. The girls are excited to start collecting stamps for the books they read.
Lauren Blair

Moffat County fourth- and fifth-graders set off on a round-the-world literary tour this week with the kickoff of the Passport to Reading program for the 2014-15 school year.

The passport will be their entry into unexplored foreign genres from poetry to folk tales to Colorado history.

“When you visit another country, you get a new stamp and when you visit a new genre you get a new stamp,” new Moffat County High School librarian Joe Padon said.

Each of the approximately 350 fourth- and fifth-grade students received their passport this week, full of blank pages ready to be stamped in at least 22 different literary genres. Those who get at least 20 stamps will be able to attend an end-of-year barbecue, and other prizes also will be available in the spring for the highest-achieving and most-improved readers in each school.

Prizes last year included gift certificates for Downtown Books, as well as an iPod Shuffle for the top readers of the schools.

The structure of the passports helps kids set goals to see who can fill up their book with stamps the fastest. The program is designed to motivate kids to not only read more but also read different kinds of books.

“It’s to try to get them to read out of their comfort zone and read other genres,” said fourth-grade teacher Wendy Seely, who teaches at Sunset Elementary.

Sunset kicked off the program Tuesday night with campfires, s’mores and storytelling. Students and parents were invited to roast marshmallows around the fire pit and listen to stories and poems from community members Kip Hafey and Dave Morris.

Piled next to each other on the ground at Hafey’s feet, students squirmed and screamed when he followed his first story with a scary story under the light of the full moon.

Teachers such as Seely are just glad the program is getting off the ground again this year, as there was some uncertainty it might not happen due to budget cuts that threatened the Accelerated Reader program.

As compared with other programs designed to encourage kids to read, Passport provides more accountability by requiring that students take a short test or do a write-up for each book they read.

“Accelerated Reader is part of what helps us manage the program. There are around 300,000 tests to test comprehension (of students’ reading),” Seely explained. “With this one there is true accountability.”

This is the program’s third year in Moffat County. Last year, Craig Rotary Club, Friends of Moffat County Education and Moffat County United Way Human Resources Council provided funding for the program and barbecue, with enough leftover to disperse more than $800 to each of the four elementary school libraries to buy more books for students to read.

Launched by past MCHS librarian James Neton, who now teaches history at the high school, the program is continuing under Padon, who said he is excited to keep the program going.

“It kind of widens their horizons on their reading,” Padon said. “A lot of times it introduces them to new genres that hopefully will spark their interest and read more. Hopefully it’s a domino effect.”

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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