Dr. Jim Strogen reads "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss to Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary School 3rd grade and 2-3 classes for Read Across America Day on Friday, March 1, 2013.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

Students at Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary School in Ahwatukee Foothills are celebrating the national program Read Across America with a challenge: reading a quarter of a million pages or minutes in about six weeks.

“We knew it was a pretty lofty goal,” said Assistant Principal Jo Hanken, mentioning the school started the project in January. “I just wanted a challenge for the students so they’d really think about reading and how important it is.”

Celebrated on March 1 this year, along with Dr. Seuss’s birthday, Read Across America is the largest reading celebration in the country with reading events hosted among millions of students.

To track their minutes or pages, Hanken and other staff at the school created a reading map in the library where students “Read Across America,” filling in states for every 5,000 minutes read.

“It’s the first time at Lagos and kids love it, it’s very visual,” Hanken said.

In addition to the reading map, students hosted a reading assembly last week with storyteller and author Jim Cogan.

Students got to hear Cogan’s animated, and often theatrical, reading of several stories during the assembly, also promoting the importance of reading.

“The whole idea is to inspire kids to want to read for their whole life,” Cogan said. “What better way than to see an adult having fun.”

Cogan tells stories completely from memory, some folkloric others original writings, and always presents lessons for kids such as the value of work, working together, and how differences make us special.

His character voices, oral sound effects, and participation from students were a hit at Lagos.

“Oral language as a bridge to reading, cuts across so many reading and learning styles, it’s a universal, ageless way of getting their interest in focus,” Cogan added.

With just 11 states to complete on their reading map, students at Lagos are well on their way to completing their goal before spring break. Though the goal this year was enough of a challenge, Hanken said with the success so far, she’s already planning on making next year’s goal even bigger.

“The goal is just to keep kids reading and at the front of their minds,” she said.

For more information about Read Across America, visit nea.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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