Throughout March, students and faculty at the east Cobb school participated in the
READioactive Reading Experiment and have read for more than 3,900 hours, or 236,640 minutes, in preparation for its annual spring book fair event.
For every 15 to 30 minutes a student or faculty member read, a link was added to a long chain of colorful strands that hang throughout the halls, teachers lounge and cafeteria. A total of 9,483 links drape the school.
“The Reading Experiment inspired everybody at Timber Ridge to read more,” said fifth-grader Maddie Malcolm. “It was exciting to come in every morning to see how long the chains were.”
Her classmate, Ursula Cole, said she enjoyed seeing the long, colorful chains cover the school and knowing that they helped make them by their reading efforts.
Fifth-grader Carlton Kell said his favorite fun activity was one in which Assistant Principal Adam Hill was turned into a skeleton by a scientist in the READioactive Reading Laboratory.
All three students are in Ann Yarbrough’s class, which read the most of any fifth-grade class at 12,210 minutes.
“(It) was one of the most exciting events of the year,” Yarbrough said. “Every administrator, faculty and staff member, and student at Timber Ridge was immersed in reading.”
She said parents spent countless hours tallying reading minutes and making the colorful chains to hang throughout the building.
“It was super exciting for everyone,” she said.
Third-grade teacher Rhonda Marbut, whose class read the most for its grade level, 12,420 minutes, said she encouraged her students daily to read and turn in their reading strips.
“But the real encouragement came between the students themselves,” she said. “They really came together as a class, encouraging and cheering on each other to read, read, read!”
Other grade-level winners were pre-K teacher Debra Meadows, whose class read 525 minutes; Kindergarten, Lisa O’Driscoll, 6,705 minutes; first grade, Melinda Butler, 7,485 minutes; second grade, Katie Lewis, 13,410 minutes and fourth grade, Mitzi Langdon, 13,380 minutes.
Who got the ball rolling on READioactive?
The READioactive Reading Experiment was the brainchild of the school’s book fair co-chairs, Jen Dengler and Cecile Della Bernardo.
The Timber Ridge parents wanted to fire up children about reading and thought that could best be accomplished by visually showing them how much their classmates and teaching were reading.
“We knew that if we tried to string it through the school and the kids could see that they were a part of it, they would get excited about reading,” Bernardo said.
And, boy, did it work out in their favor.
“It turned out so much better than we thought it would,” Dengler said. “We really had no idea how much participation we would get.”
Spreading the word
Word of the event even spread to other elementary schools.
“Media specialists and parents contacted us from neighboring schools to see what we had done so they could carry the idea over to their school,” Dengler said.
Timber Ridge librarian Katherine Parks said the event was a testament to reading and the excitement a movement like this could create for students.
“The whole concept is kind of like a pebble that creates ripples that go on and on,” she said.
Each grade level, pre-K through fifth grade and faculty, was designated a color, and students in pre-K through first grade received a chain link for every 15 minutes of reading and second- through fifth-graders and faculty members received a link for every 30 minutes of reading.
“My son, who isn’t a huge reader, every day when he would finish his homework, he would want to read and fill out the slips,” Dengler said. “I think for him it taught him that reading doesn’t have to be a chore or homework assignment.”
Every other day, Dengler and Bernardo would gather the links, attach them and hang the strands of chains throughout the hallways, as well as update the principal on which classes were in the lead.
“That way the children knew where they stood, and it became a fun competition for them,” Bernardo said.
In the 15-minute category, first graders won by reading 28,530 minutes and in the 30-minute category, third grade won by reading for a total of 45,000 minutes.