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Auction brings about reading acceleration

May 26, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. -- Ten-year-old Billy Crowder stretched his arm as high as he could.

Reaching his colored card into the air, he gave it a wave so the auctioneer knew he was definitely bidding.

"Going once, going twice," said auctioneer Craig Knepper.

Billy's eyes grew wide. The auctioneer was holding a signed T-shirt from children's author Mike Thaler.

As he glanced around the McConnellsburg Elementary School gymnasium, Billy noticed that none of the other kids had their cards in the air.

He was the only one.

He was the top bidder.

All that reading just paid off.

To motivate students to read more than they ever had, Librarian Pam Ott coordinated the school's first Celebrity Reading Auction.

Ott said it can be a challenge to make reading fun, but she knew if the reward was big enough, students would read.

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Mailing more than 1,000 letters to celebrities, sports stars, musicians and authors, Ott spent a year collecting a menagerie of donated prizes for the auction.

Ott said the students in her accelerated reading program earned points by reading books.

"Depending on the length and difficulty of a book, a student could get between two and four points per book," she said. "The points could be spent like money at the auction."

In 10 months, her 240 accelerated reading students earned 19,915 points, Ott said.

"That means they read about 12,000 books," she said. "I am so proud."

The students finally got to cash in their points during Tuesday's auction.

For four hours, with the help of parents, teachers and volunteers, the students made their bids on books, T-shirts, collectible items like a pair of ballet slippers worn on the New York City Ballet stage and Penn State footballs signed by Joe Paterno, and big prizes like four tickets to see "Wheel of Fortune."

The auction was "so, so much" fun, said 8-year-old Marie Fuller.

"There was lots of stuff," she said. "I got a Rummikub game, a soccer shirt, a scarf and other stuff."

Some students had a lot of points to spend at the auction, Ott said.

Marie said she had 510 points. Billy said he had 445 points. Jay Harnish, 9, said he had 615 points.

A student only needed to earn 25 points to come to the auction, Ott said.

Yet many of the students said they loved reading and worked hard to earn more points.

Billy said he read more than 100 books. Jay said he read 90 books. Marie said she lost count of how many books she read.

The auction was a huge success, Ott said. Not only did celebrities donate more than 300 items, but the students truly accelerated their reading, she said.

Despite the success of the auction, Ott said no auction is planned for next year.

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