Reading and racing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

The kindergartners, first-and second-graders have taken their seats. A motor revs in the background as a fleet of teachers press plastic checkered flags into the students hands.

“If you lose these they’re gone forever,” says one teacher with a smile. “And don’t hit each other with them.”

The teachers of Symmes Valley Elementary tried to keep the students seated on the wooden bleacher of Rocky Top Raceway on Friday afternoon, but it was a losing battle.

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Then, with a roar, the already tenuous grasp the teachers had on the tots slips away completely as Mike Mays’ car speeds on to the track, leaving a crowd of dust in its wake.

“This is the best day ever!” shouts Caleb Hackworth above the clamor.

Ever heard a kindergartner talk that way about reading before?

That’s right, behind all the glitz of the race car, this is an event to promote reading, the culmination of Symmes Valley Elementary’s “Take the Lead - Read” week.

All week, students from the school have been racing to finish as many books as they could, attempting to pass other classes at the school.

“I read 51 books,” exclaimed kindergartner Preston Dowden. Not one to be outdone, Caleb quickly answers “I read 92!”

“No you didn’t, Caleb,” Preston quickly answered with a laugh. “He’s a big liar.”

Regardless of Caleb’s exact figure, teacher Patty Bellville said that the program had blown the doors off the staff’s expectations.

“It’s going really well,” Bellville said. “Our goal was to read 1,000 books this week, and I think we’ve read over 2,500. So, so far, so good.”

The kids had gotten amped for reading by a week of events, such as puppet shows and safety lessons from state troopers, that all tied in with reading. For example, two drivers had visited the school on Thursday to emphasize how important reading was in their jobs.

As the students cheered on Mays around the track, perhaps it was themselves they should have been celebrating. If the goal was developing a rabid interest in reading, then the checkered flag could have been lowered on the students and staff of Symmes Valley Elementary long ago.