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Garfield First-Graders Smash Book Goal

One thousand books in four months? Child's play. Collingswood first-graders go for the gold in the Mayor's Book Club.

They always knew it was a lofty goal—1,000 books in three months for a class not 20 students strong.

A lot was riding on this. Taking part in the Mayor’s Book Club, the first-graders at James A. Garfield Elementary had $1,000 on the line to buy new books, but only if they managed to hit that 1,000-book mark.

After three months of reading in the classroom, at recess, at home with parents and just about anywhere you can think of, the first-graders not only met their 1,000-book goal, they doubled it.

“Two thousand books!” the kids screamed together when Collingswood Mayor James Maley asked them how they did during a classroom visit Tuesday.

Nicole Negri’s first-graders took part in the Mayor’s Book Club, a literacy initiative offered in eight schools statewide. Rowan University and the New Jersey League of Municipalities teamed up to offer the program, which gives $1,000 for book purchases and two new books for every child in classrooms that meet their goal. Area mayors partner with a classroom in their community to promote literacy and a love of reading during the challenge.

It clearly worked.

Maley and the class read the first book together back at the start of the . Then the kids were turned loose to read any book they desired.

Jacob Hwang often brought home his selections to read with family, dad Stephen said. The first-grader is partial to mysteries.

“The great thing about this reading program is that it matches books to the kids’ reading level,” the elder Hwang said. “So he’s always interested in what he’s reading.”

Over the challenge, students filled out paperwork documenting their progress book by book. The students had some trouble conceiving of just how many books they had devoured, Negri said. So this week teachers taped up one pink square for every book read by the class. And just like that, the halls of Garfield took on Pepto-Bismol hue.

“You could hear it when they walked in today. ‘The walls are pink!’ ” Negri said. “It’s a wonderful way for them to see what they’ve done. … They’re blossoming into learners and readers, which is really nice.”

Tuesday turned into a celebration, with parents joining the class, teachers and Maley in a party to mark the first-graders’ accomplishment. And while there were treats galore, Maley told the kids their achievements will go beyond that moment.

“This is the kind of party you’ll have all your life from reading,” Maley said. “Every time you read, it’s like a little party.”

Betsy Cook April 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM
So cute! What great readers! Yay, Garfield School!
Brenda April 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
That is wonderful!
Nicole Negri April 26, 2012 at 01:15 AM
I am so proud of my first grade class! They were so eager to reach their goal and they read far beyond the expectation. I'm sure this will lead to many more books in their lives. They asked if they could keep logging their books! It's just wonderful!!!

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