While a stadium of 17,866 people enjoyed the halftime performances at the NCAA 2020 Division I football championship game, seven students and their parents stood nervously in the cold on the sidelines waiting for their names to be called. These seven students were the winners of the inaugural FISD NCAA Readers Become Leaders Program and had earned their moment of recognition with weeks of hard work.
The NCAA Readers Become Leaders Program (supported by a partnership with Scholastic) set up a challenge between 10 Frisco ISD elementary campuses supporting independent reading. Third grade students at Sonntag, Elliott, Ogle, Christie, Shawnee Trail, Rogers, Bright, Spears, Tadlock and Taylor elementary schools participated in the friendly reading competition that tracked the number of minutes each student and campus read.
To kick off the program, campuses held pump-up celebrations and each third grade classroom received additional books for their classroom library. Students were encouraged to read a minimum of 30 minutes per day and to log their minutes. The NCAA provided various incentives each week for the top readers.
The Readers Become Leaders competition focused on third grade students because research shows that if students are not reading on level by the end of third grade, they are four times less likely to graduate from high school. Since a critical component of being a proficient reader is independently practicing reading skills, the District was excited to offer third graders an additional incentive to spend more time reading.
Across the 10 campuses, 50 third grade classrooms and more than 970 students, 619,724 minutes were reported over six weeks both in and out of class.
The top seven students received two tickets to the game and were presented on the field during halftime. Congratulations to these students:
Trevor Arifin, Taylor - 12,535 minutes
Pranav Arvind, Bright Academy - 20,170 minutes
Miraji Imena, Shawnee Trail - 13,782 minutes
Frida Membrilla, Taylor - 9,955 minutes
Max Murphy, Taylor - 12,518 minutes
Smayan Nallabelli, Taylor - 9,290 minutes
Nithya Uppasetty, Bright Academy - 9,375 minutes
“I like reading because it’s important for my learning and I know I have to read to reach goals,” said Taylor student Frida Membrilla.
Taylor Elementary was the top campus with over 154,000 minutes read. Bright Academy and Shawnee Trail finish out the top three campuses.
Taylor Elementary’s accomplishment as the top school earned it the opportunity to have over 20 North Dakota State University athletes visit the campus in a celebration of reading in which the college students took the third graders into small groups where they read together.
Jenaro Wathum-Ocama is a freshman at NDSU and was excited to read with the kids. He hoped that NDSU’s visit would leave a lasting impression.
“Growing up, my parents always told me that it was not money or time, but the effect you have on other people that makes a difference -- and this makes a difference,” Watchum said. “Reading is a valuable escape into various worlds like literature and art and I am happy to participate in this.”
Taylor Principal Christy Garza emphasized to the third graders that the athletes reading to them exemplified the campus mission of “One Village - Every Child.”
“This opportunity is a living example of our mission,” Garza said. “These visitors are here to give their time and support of you. We all depend on each other to support you and your education. We have this opportunity because of your reading.”
Victor Hill, associate director of NCAA Team Works, was thrilled with the overall success of the program in its inaugural year.
“Every child who logged time is a champion -- a reading champion,” Hill said. “The defending champion football athletes reading to them were here to help solidify the message. Reading is the first element in learning and getting where you want to go. All of them were third graders at one point and they got to where they are now through reading.”