BRIGHTON — Books came to life with contests, costumes and imaginations Jan. 25-29 when Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School embraced Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida, sponsored by the Florida Department of Education.
With the theme “Literacy Changes Our World,” the 8th annual event promoted literacy throughout the state while encouraging students to continue reading to improve their skills.
A service project contest in which PECS elementary and middle schools competed statewide was another component. Both placed second, which earned the school $1,000 in prize money. Principal Brian Greseth traveled to Tallahassee Jan. 28 to receive the award from Florida’s first lady Ann Scott.
For the middle school service project, the students collected more than 800 magazines and wrote letters for care packages sent to troops serving overseas as part of the Loving Our Heroes campaign. Elementary students collected more than 1,300 gently used books and distributed them to the Real Life Children’s Ranch and during the Okeechobee Christmas parade.
The winning projects were planned before the school knew about the contest, Greseth said. The elementary school project has been ongoing for a couple years and will continue, he said.
“I’m very proud of what we do,” Greseth said. “It’s a very neat lesson on how to give back to the community and how it feels to give rather than to receive.”
Daily themes throughout the week were diverse and fun.
Brighton firefighters ignited love for reading with a “Stop, Drop & Read” activity. Sunglasses were essential accessories for Monday’s “bright, sunny stories” theme. On Tuesday, students and teachers dressed like 1980s rock stars and “rocked out to reading.”
Students went “wild about reading” on Wednesday and showed it by wearing animal print clothing. A book character costume celebration added more fun. Favorite sports teams were in the spotlight Thursday, as students teamed up to read with a buddy. Friday featured funky socks and funny stories, followed by an afternoon pajama party complete with milk, cookies and bedtime stories.
Throughout the fun, PECS exceeded a weeklong 30,000 minute reading challenge with nearly 33,000 minutes read by 299 students and 61 teachers. They read for 30 minutes per day, 15 more than usual.
Daily guest readers helped capture students’ attentions by reading their favorite grade-appropriate books. Amber Thornton’s first-grade class, comfy in their pajamas and snacking on milk and cookies, gathered around parent Peggy Nunez as she read “One Rainy Day” by M. Christina Butler.
Culture language instructors Marcus Briggs-Cloud and Jade Osceola read from Betty Mae Jumper’s book “Legends of the Seminoles.”
Older students took turns reading to younger classes. Seventh- and eighth-graders read stories in Creek to toddlers in the immersion class. Fifth-graders read with kindergarten students and each honed reading skills during the process.
Fifth-graders Renee Ringer, 11, and Laci Prescott, 10, made sure Bobbi Dale Johns-Osceola, 6, understood every page of “Barbie and the Secret Door” by asking questions about the text. The older girls also read to their younger siblings.
“They need to learn complicated words so they will get good grades when they get older,” Renee said.
“It’s fun to have the honor to come and read to them,” Laci added. “They are little and we get to help teach them.”
A door decorating contest included one standout door that featured a quote by the late Mason Cooley, professor at Columbia University and the College of Staten Island: “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
Literacy Week at PECS was organized by instructional coaches Stephanie Tedders and Victoria Paige, who deemed the week a success.
“The week was very productive, lots of fun and filled with real enjoyment of good literature,” Paige said. “Our staff and parents do a great job of embracing the love of literacy.”