By Devese “Dee” Ursery
The Collinsville-Maryville-Caseyville (CMC) Rotary on Nov. 18 donated $1,500 to the Collinsville Middle School. The money will be used to start a new reading program to encourage young students to do more reading.
CMC Rotary officers Theresa May and John Maue presented the donation to CMS principal Brad Snow and Library/Media Specialist Michael Hayman, the mastermind behind the program.
Students will be rewarded for reaching certain milestones based on the number of words they have read. The big prize is $50 for every million words read. The program includes kids of all reading levels: from rewarding avid readers, to incentivizing and supporting those who wish to read, but struggle to comprehend. The plan is to expand the program to other schools in the Collinsville school district.
The donation replaces the CMC Rotary’s long standing tradition of providing dictionaries to every fourth grader in district 10. The rise of online dictionaries and thesauruses caused the Rotary to find a new way to support reading and literacy in the community.
Hayman has made it his mission to make sure that every child that comes through Collinsville Middle School finds a passion for reading. He explained that the pandemic brought things to a screeching halt and slowed or stopped a lot of their reading initiatives.
“A lot of our reading initiatives just stopped because there was just no way to get it done, logistically,” said Hayman. Those wheels have been rusted and I’m trying to grease them up, so that we can get rolling.”
According to Hayman every kid should love at least one book. “If they love one book, then they are more than likely to read another, at some point,” he said. “Reading is the most important thing that you could get a kid hooked on.”
They don’t have to read all of the time, but to find that love, they need to read books, he said.
“My goal for this year is to get 50 students to reach a million words read,” Hayman said. “And the goal for next year is for 100 kids to reach that mark.”
Hayman said that he hosts at least two book fairs a year, one in the fall and another at the end of the school year. When planning out this program Hayman spoke with Dr. Brad Skertich, from the CMC Rotary and he took the idea and presented it to their Board of Directors.
Unbeknownst to the Rotary, Hayman will double their donation allowing them the ability to reward more kids who reach that million word mark.
“We never know exactly how many kids are going to reach the million word mark,” Hayman said. “When it gets rolling it could be anywhere from 80 to 150 kids, so that making that last as long as possible is key.”
Hayman has been working with the CMS speech teacher and special education department to identify students who really struggle with reading or comprehending what they read.
The goal is to provide them with books that we know are good and easily accessible to those who struggle with reading.
A million words are a lot and most kids don’t reach that mark. Before the pandemic Doris and some of the other Collinsville elementary schools topped out at 150 to 160 kids reaching the million or more word mark. That still leaves 800 to 900 kids never reaching the mark.
Hayman got together with Karen Lacaze and came up with a solution to support and incentivize those who do not reach the million word mark. Lacaze is the district marketing coordinator for Sodexo, a food service and food management company for the Collinsville Community Unit School District 10.
The one million words is one option, but for those in between, he split the million words into four quarters, rewarding those that read 250,000 words with a ”golden ticket.” The golden ticket is a voucher for a free snack from the school cafeteria.
Middle school students in the program who read 250,000 words can redeem their golden ticket for either a bag of chips, a cup of ice cream, or a large cookie. According to Hayman, for those that struggle or never received a reading award will see the 250,000 word as an attainable goal.
“I know that all of the kids that I talked with or who have already gotten their golden tickets have not wasted time redeeming them,” Hayman said. “They are really receptive to the program.”
In the first quarter Hayman handed out 10 golden tickets and in the next four weeks he handed out 15 more.
“I have a full library and I am able to hone in on what the kids want,” Hayman said. “We’re to help them expand and explore their horizon and world view; and nothing does that more than reading.”