By Chris Hendrickson, Contributing Writer
What do cheeseburgers and magic shows have in common? Both are being offered to Sultan Elementary School Students as incentive to encourage them to spend more of their free time reading books.
The school’s Read-at-Home program is hosting a magic show on Friday, March 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Sultan Elementary School, which is open to all students and their families. Admission is $5 for individuals or $20 for families, and kids who have met or exceeded their reading goals for three consecutive months will get to attend the event free of charge. The magician is sponsored by Xtreme Consulting Group, a contracting agency located in Kirkland, which donated $1,000 to facilitate the show.
Concessions will be provided by the Sultan Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, and all proceeds earned will benefit Read-at-Home, an incentive-based program designed to motivate kids to spend time reading books. Students are challenged to meet a goal of three hundred minutes of extracurricular reading per month, as well as a school-wide goal of 2 million minutes for the entire year.
Last year, the school successfully accomplished the 2 million minute reading goal, and things are looking good for this year, as well.
“We are on track to exceed it this year,” said parent-volunteer Polly Bridgewater.
The prizes build incrementally as reading accomplishments increase in significance. The incentive-based model has been effective at increasing the program’s overall participation.
“It’s definitely gone up,” said Bridgewater. “Every month we give out more and more prizes.”
Student track their minutes on calendars that are turned in to their teachers at the end of each month. Sultan Elementary School Paraeducator Jan Gill handles the nuts-and-bolts of the program, including compiling the student monthly reading reports and entering the information into a database. She tracks student participation as well as classroom participation.
Students who achieve the monthly reading minimums are eligible for prizes, which build if the student’s reading is consistent and continues for consecutive months. In addition to the magic show on Friday evening, kids who have reached their reading goals for the past three months in a row will be able to attend a special performance on Friday morning by the magician, who will give a special presentation which focuses on reading.
Entire classes become eligible for special events like popcorn parties when they achieve 100 percent student participation. Parent volunteer Mary Black has been instrumental in helping to facilitate the popcorn parties, donating time and materials to make the popcorn parties engaging for students. She pops all the popcorn and bags it up in decorative bags that acknowledge the occasion.
Bridgewater said that Black’s help this year has been invaluable.
“She’s really helped out a lot,” said Bridgewater. “I couldn’t do what I do without her.”
Bridgewater has worked for the past three years to enhance Read-at-Home by garnering community-wide support in an effort to increase the level of prizes available for students. She has recruited many local businesses such as Sweet Indulgence and the Sky River Bakery, both based in Monroe, who donate gift certificates for Bridgewater to give out as prizes to kids who meet their reading goals.
Other contributors include Ace Hardware, Maggie Torza of Miss Maggie’s Desserts, Sahara Pizza and the Flat Iron Gallery, all located in Sultan.
This year’s Read-at-Home program has featured a special emphasis on classic books.
Bridgewater, who wanted to come up with something new and different, devised the Classic Readers Program to boost the kids’ interest in classic books. She approached Marc Vick, owner of Vick’s Burger Shack, to ask if he’d be willing to sponsor the new program. Vick was not only willing to provide cheeseburgers to any student who participated by reading a classic book, but also decided to include fries and a root beer. Bridgewater cautioned him that there was no way for her to gauge student participation since it was a brand new initiative.
“I said, ‘It could be a lot, it could be a little… If it gets overwhelming, let me know and I will find somebody else to help me out,’” said Bridgewater. “He said, ‘Nope, we want to do the whole thing, no matter what it is.’”
And so the Classic Readers Program, which grants a certificate good for a junior cheeseburger meal complements of Vick’s Burger Shack to any student who reads a classic book, was born. Vick’s, which is located just off U.S. 2 near Bubba’s Roadhouse, has been in business in Sultan for just over a year.
“It’s just a way for us to give back,” said Vick. “It’s great for the kids and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Vick, who lives in Gold Bar with his wife, Debbie, employs his sons, Kevin and Jeff, who can often be found manning the Shack. The drive-up restaurant features burgers with all the trimmings, along with old-fashioned custom milkshakes and French fries, regular or sweet potato.
To be eligible for the junior cheeseburger meal gift certificate, the kids must obtain a 70 percent or higher score on a basic 10-question quiz about whichever classic book they chose to read. They also get their names displayed on a poster at the school announcing them as “Classic Readers.” So far, students have read classics like Charlotte’s Web, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Anne of Green Gables, Hardy Boys Mysteries and many others.
Bridgewater said that it’s been fun hearing the kids become excited about which classic books they enjoyed the most.
“They’re really sharing and it’s so cool,” said Bridgewater.
So far, around 200 junior meal certificates have been given to kids for reading classic books.
This year, Bridgewater’s outreach efforts have extended beyond just Read-at-Home. When she heard that funding had been cut for the school’s popular Donuts with Dad event, she was inspired to take action.
“It was really well-attended and kids love their dads coming to school,” said Bridgewater.
She approached Barmon Lumber in Sultan, who agreed to sponsor the event, which costs around $300 to organize. Donuts with Dad will be held in June and will coincide with the school’s book fair.
Bridgewater also approached NAPA Auto Parts in Monroe, and secured funding for next year’s Donuts with Dad event, as well.
The magic show on Friday will feature award-winning Olympia magician Jeff Evans, who has been performing magic since he was 12 years old. The event will be held at Sultan Elementary School which is located at 501 Date St. in Sultan. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., with a 6:30 p.m. show time.
To help support Read-at-Home, please contact Polly Bridgewater through Sultan Elementary School at (360) 793-9830.