COTTONWOOD - Reading is perhaps the most important skill a child will ever learn, laying the foundation necessary for future success. So instilling a love for reading can be priceless to say the least.
In recognition of I Love to Read month, a variety of activities have been taking place to encourage students at Lakeview Public School to develop a passion for reading.
Beginning Feb. 4, the entire school got into the spirit, dressing up for various themes throughout the week.
"Monday (Feb. 4) was our first day, and 'Snuggle up with a Good Book' was our theme, so we wore pajamas," said Susanne Lee, literacy coordinator at Lakeview. "Tuesday was 'Read Your Socks Off,' so people wore silly socks."
Wednesday was "Show Off the Need to Read," Lee said, so students and teachers wore shirts with printing on them.
"I sent out some ideas for the teachers, like seeing whose shirt has the longest word on it, or if vowels were worth five dollars and consonants were one dollar, whose shirt would be worth the most, some things like that," Lee said. "I'm not sure how many teachers tried things like that since it was optional, but the kids really got into dressing up. It's been very good."
A variety of hats were seen up and down the hallways on Thursday, Lee said, for "Hats Off to Reading" day. On Friday, which was "Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character" day, students especially seemed to be having fun. Walking down the hallway or glancing into a classroom, it was easy to spot Cinderella, Snow White or other princess characters in addition to super heroes like Spiderman and Batman.
"There were a lot of teachers who dressed up, too, as well as students," said Lee, who resembled Lilly, a little white mouse with red boots, a red cape and a plastic purse that author Kevin Henkes created. "We're just trying to observe I Love to Read month."
On Tuesday, a One School, One Book program was kickstarted at Lakeview.
"It's a program where every family within our pre-K through sixth-grade ages take home a book," Lee said. "So every family is reading the same book for the last three weeks of February."
In the past, Lakeview students have united to read "The Trumpet of the Swan" by E.B. White, "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks and "The Cricket in Times Square" by George Selden.
In anticipation for the 2013 program, including the revealing of the book title, students assembled in the auditorium late in the afternoon, a nervous excitement rippling across the entire seating area.
"In the past, we've known the book ahead of time," Lee said. "This year, I thought we'd keep it a secret."
After watching a short video that explained the process of the program and why reading is important, Lee asked teacher Julie Neisius to come up on stage to help with the first clue. Though apprehensive, Neisius eventually pulled a small, realistic mouse from a bag Lee was holding up.
The next clue was an audio one, which students identified as a motorcycle. Finally, as Jake Hanson, dean of students at Lakeview, rolled across the stage on a bright red and white scooter, students cheered in celebration as they realized that the book was "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" by Beverly Cleary.
"I like reading," fifth-grader Kaitlin Fischer said. "It depends on the book, though. I've read 'The Mouse and the Motorcycle' before. It was really good."
Lakeview Principal Phil Lienemann took the stage to explain the process to the students.
"We give one book to each family," he said. "That's yours to keep."
Back in the classroom, Lienemann said, each student would receive his or her copy of this year's One School, One Book selection.
"What we ask you to do is read one chapter a night," Lienemann said. "We do that because we need to be done with the book by the end of the month since February is I Love to Read month."
Since the school day was canceled Monday because of the weather, Lienemann asked students to read two chapters Tuesday night, to keep on track with the schedule.
"The idea is for families to read together," Lee said. "Even if it's an older elementary student, the idea is to still read together as a family, with parents taking the time to sit with their child and read or listen to their child read."
Lienemann suggested that students read or listen very carefully as they go through each chapter of the book.
"As many of you know, I put out a video every day that asks a question about the next chapter and give the answer to the previous chapter," he said. "Your teachers have access to the videos any time during the day, so whenever they want to, they can play those videos to you."
While the experience is expected to unite the school, the effort also serves as a reminder of how important reading is.
"I think it's important to show your children how important it is to read," Lee said. "As they get older, children read more independently, but I think it's great to take the time to sit and read with them still or listen to them read to you as well.
"The other big part, of course, is there's so much research that shows how important it is to read at such an early age. The students come in to school with so much more vocabulary then at that point."
U.S. Education Department statistics reveal that approximately 32 million adults in the U.S. - about one in seven - lack basic prose literacy skills, meaning they cannot read a newspaper or instructions on the side of a pill bottle. While 63 percent of prison inmates cannot read, an estimated 19 percent of high school graduates cannot read either.
"The kids get so excited for this program," Lienemann said. "To see them get excited about reading is wonderful."