Heritage Academy’s ‘Driven to Read’ program motivates fifth-grade boys to read

Heritage Academy’s multi-purpose room was abuzz April 16 with more than 50 dedicated and committed community men, and 38 enthusiastic and energetic fifth-grade boys reading to each other for the first annual “Driven to Read: 5th Grade Boys-Male Read-IN.” The event was planned exclusively for fifth-grade boys, but due to an overwhelming response from the volunteers, a few of the Eagle Readers fourth-grade boys were also able to participate.

The boys were paired with a reading partner from the community. Before the exciting day started, the boys met in the multi-purpose room for final instruction. The reading partners met in the media center for a briefing about the purpose of the event and the schedule. The boys then met their reading partner in the media center and escorted them to the multi-purpose room. As they transitioned from one place to the next, the boys and their reading partners had a moment to chat to get to know each other. They continued getting acquainted as they designed a race car together to promote reading. The boys’ “inquiring minds” wanted to know what their reading partners thought of their reading skills, and were excited to learn that some of them had similar stories to their own as to why they didn’t like reading.

Before the partner reading, Heritage Academy Principal Trennis Harvey greeted the guests and welcomed them to the school, where “Excellence is Expected.” He thanked everyone for taking time out of their busy schedule to share this event with the fifth-grade boys.

The highlight of the event was the reading of “The Dumbest Kid in Fifth Grade” — chapter three of Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Gregg Lewis and Deborah Shaw Lewis. The boys were excited to tell Media Specialist Nina Edwards that they were able to use some of their reading strategies such as Prior Knowledge and Text to Self to help them to have a meaningful discussion with their reading partner. The reading partners were impressed with the boys’ enthusiasm about reading. One of the boys, Telly Brown, even had the experience of reading the story from an iPad with his reading partner, Darrell Taylor.

Another highlight of the event was the boys having lunch with their reading partners. They enjoyed a delicious three-course meal, complete with peach cobbler, red velvet cupcakes and banana pudding cake! The fun- filled day ended with a group photo session, and a promise from many of the volunteers to participate next year.

“Driven to Read: 5th Grade Boys-Male Read-IN” was a great success because of the support from Principal Harvey and the Heritage family as well as the community. The school’s business partner, Gas South, purchased the books, which allowed each boy to receive his own copy, and a Think Big bookmark. Other support came from Derrick Boazman, 1380 AM radio personality, who urged the men of Atlanta to respond to the challenge of participating in this event; and Joseph Decatur, who served as photographer and who donated a copy of the group photograph to each student and reading partner. The Heritage Academy Library Media Committee and Communities in Schools Atlanta sponsored the event.

Although the sponsors saw this as a good way to end the year on a high note, the students apparently have other plans. Now the fifth-grade girls and the other Heritage Academy Eagle Readers want their own special reading event — before this school year is over! “The Eagle Readers are speaking out and want to stress the importance of summer reading,” said NIna Edwards, so the following events have been planned:

Children’s Book Week — May 10-16
Reading is Fun Week — May 9-15
“Hats off to Reading: 5th Grade Girls/Mother Reading Tea — May 13
Tommy John’s Curriculum-Based Assembly Program to Encourage Kids to Read “Love to Read!” — May 17
School Wide “Hats off to Reading Read-IN — May 18

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