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Sandy Journal

Granite Elementary: Winner in national reading challenge

Feb 05, 2019 03:48PM ● By Julie Slama

Granite second-graders read with the online Epic! reading program, which is how they won a national reading challenge. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

The totals are in — and Granite Elementary second-graders are celebrating their success.

Students in Tiffany Smith’s class read a total of 3,745 books in five days, becoming one of 10 classes across the country to be named a grand prize winners in Epic!’s Fall into Reading Challenge, that was held this past fall.

Across the nation, classrooms read a total of 8.5 million books, surpassing the goal of 8 million in five days, said Delores Richardson. 

“It was fun to know that we won and had an Epic! party,” second-grader Brielle Bagley said. “We got sunglasses, doughnuts, pencils and got to read some more. I really like reading.”

Smith introduced the Epic! program, which is free to teachers, to encourage her students to read more.

“It’s harder to find enough books in my library to interest students,” she said, although she does have them read actual tangible books in addition to the online program. “Epic! provides students more choices. There’s something that every child has an interest in.”

She said that through the online program, students can find a text to read, complete a comprehension survey and review the book with a thumbs up or thumbs down.

“I am able to track how many books they read and how long it takes them to read it as well as how well they understand what they’re reading,” she said.

Through her teaching, Smith said she talks about a topic, such as frogs, and then students can read about frogs and their life cycles on their reading level, to tie into the instruction. There also is audio support so students can listen to the books in addition to reading them.

Second-grader Zoey Henderson appreciates the program.

“I like having the books read to you, especially the animal ones,” she said.

Classmate Titus Mohr said he reads a range of books.

“I read a lot of the easier, shorter picture books, but I also like the chapter books about the American Revolution,” the second-grader said about his favorite subject. “Being able to pick what I’m interested in keeps me motivated to read more.”

With students already fans of the Epic! program, Smith was excited to introduce the national reading challenge that was held in early October.

“They thought it was so cool and were so excited. Even when they weren’t reading, we had conversations about books, they were motivated by their peers and we were able to look at the leaderboard to see how many more books they needed to stay on the leaderboard. Every bit of it was engaging for these 7-year-olds,” she said.

In addition to their classroom party where they ate doughnuts and drank apple cider while wearing sunglasses, Epic! also awarded winning students a classroom certificate as well as free six-month home subscriptions so they could continue reading online.

Epic!, which was founded in 2014, has 87 percent of U.S. elementary schools or more than 5 million students using the program, with access to more than 25,000 books and videos.

“There’s an important value in reading,” Smith said. “Just like piano, soccer and one million things they have going on in their busy lives, they need to be spending at least 20 minutes reading.”