By Shannon Hartley

Special to the Herald Review

REED CITY — Cowboys and cowgirls at G.T. Norman Elementary school are celebrating National Reading Month with a down home western feel. Throughout March, students and staff can be seen dressed up boots, bandanas and cowboy hats.

With a school goal of 20,000 books to be read and a competition among the grade levels, students are reading every chance they can get. As every book is logged in, they get closer to the goal and closer to their special assembly at the end of the month.

Norman principal Tonya Harrison plans to take a ride around the school on horseback. Also the students and staff will be creating their own Harlem Shake video.

National Reading Month for these students is full of fun activities, celebrations of Dr. Suess’ birthday and trivia contests.

The motivation to read doesn’t stop there. For several years, G.T. Norman has had a program in place that stresses the importance of having children be great readers by the time they leave elementary school.

The goal, according to Harrison, is to “...take students below proficiency and bring them up to a level of proficiency. And if they are already there, then it is a push to get them further.

“Every student gets these services in one way or another, whether it’s with interventions from the classroom teacher or with a more individualized plan.”

About a half dozen Title 1 teachers are now involved with the program that has students improving by LEAP’s and bounds. LEAP, Literacy Education and Assessment Program, is the term students are familiar with.

Jo Knack started the original program and through the years it has had many changes to provide students and teachers with the resources they need. “ There were a few glitches in the beginning, but we continue to look at the curriculum and needs of the students and teachers. It is and will continue to get better. We see the improvements in students with the two week progress benchmarks.

“Within the last month, a newly created position of Master Teacher will concentrate more on the curriculum and professional development for teachers. Vicki Bowman, who has been working in the program will be taking on this role.

“I have high hopes for that more opportunities will be provided for the teachers to continue to learn and implement the program and that we will see an increase in student achievements,” said Bowman.

Parents are encouraged to get involved, reading to or reading with their child for at least 15 minutes every day.

The skills of reading, comprehension, language, and communication, are all very important parts in the a foundation of every child’s education.

Dr. Suess said it best when he said “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”