STALLINGS – Union County Public Schools is putting its spin on March Madness with a bracket-style reading campaign.
The school district aims to get third, fourth and fifth-graders excited about reading and improve literacy through the Books and Brackets challenge. Students log reading hours to help their schools advance to the next bracket each week in March.
To celebrate the kickoff, athletes and the marching band from Porter Ridge High School cheered on teachers and students Feb. 27 at Stallings Elementary. They were encouraged by school board members and the challenge’s sponsors to do their best and log as many reading hours as possible. Stallings Elementary made it to the Final Four in last year’s challenge.
After the competition ends March 26, third-graders from the top eight schools will get to participate in a special program March 27 with athletes from Wingate University. Fourth- and fifth-grade students from the final four schools will receive special recognition at their schools.
During last year’s challenge, students read more than 16 million minutes, which translates to more than 266,667 hours’ worth of reading, according to the district.
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan believes the fun nature of the competition keeps students engaged. He said this time of the year is particularly stressful for students because of standardized tests.
“We do this to really foster the love of learning and the love of reading,” Houlihan said. “During the second semester is when you’ll normally see a lot of focus on testing. We want our kids to relax and not even worry about that. We want them to have something fun that will spark their engagement.”
Though Houlihan hopes to see students’ academic achievement improve as a result of the challenge, his ultimate goal is for students to enjoy the experience.
“The bottom line is we want our kids to have fun and enjoy reading,” Houlihan said. “We hope to see some direct impact with academic achievement at the end of the year, but we’re very proud of all of our schools and the kids doing it.”