It’s early September, 2016. A crowd of energetic first graders gathers before the reception desk, talking excitedly. At first glance, you may think the kids are talking about their vacation trips or new LEGOs purchased over the summer. But no: books are the reigning subject. “Bingo” is a word that follows close behind. And soon after, “prizes.” To the outsider, it seems like a mystery. What on earth can get seven- through twelve-year-olds so excited about the “chore” of reading?
For Providence students, all it takes is a bit of paper, several speeches, and a few prizes. Students are handed “Bingo” charts, a play on real Bingo that asks students as they exit school for the summer to fill in the boxes by reading certain types of books. When the new year comes around, they are rewarded: Bingo-level students are given “tickets” (small slips of scratch paper) to purchase small prizes from rubber ducks to paperbacks; “perimeter” students are also gifted root beer floats; last but not least, “blackout” kids get the whole package and pizza to boot. Twenty-five books is a lot to read, especially for the older children with longer books, but we take to it with gusto.
But why, you ask? How are kids so persuaded to give up their summer time to try and jump such a high hurdle? For me, it’s a hard question to answer. Maybe it’s the prizes—but I doubt it. My best guess is that here at PCCS, we’re taught to embrace education. My teachers have always talked to me about how much they love to read the books we’re reading. It’s not just, “Here’s the assignment. You’ll enjoy it.”
Loving to read seems to be built into me, and I can’t let go of it. Some books I read for summer reading I’ll never forget, such as Mariel of Redwall, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, some of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Fellowship of the Ring (I made a valiant attempt, but wanted to get into the action and gave up), and Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth. (Mariel should not be read, however, if you don’t have a lot of time!)
Overall, summer reading is a great tradition at PCCS, and I hope anyone who doubts this will try it, because books are an amazing gift to us and the world. Why not take advantage of them?
Happy summer reading!