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Duck race is fun for Atkinson avid readers

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Atkinson second-graders watch racing toy ducks come around the creek’s bend. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

By Pete Zamplas – Atkinson Elementary students got their “ducks in a row,” so to speak, as yellow rubber ducks sped down the creek on campus in a fun race for the school’s most avid reachers to watch.

Actually, the toy ducks were not in a row but clustered in a large group at the starting point, and dropped into the creek from the bridge above. Monsoon-like rains days earlier enabled the current to sweep the ducks briskly along the creek path.

Students watched and cheered from the bank, on the creek’s south side toward the parking lot.

The child whose numbered duck won each grade’s race received a Kindle e-reader, compliments of local business sponsors.

A student was assigned a number for each duck earned in a reading program, and the number was written on the toy duck. Up to five ducks could be earned — one per reading month.

The contest was set up and supervised by the school’s reading specialist, Kim Smith. Principal Mark Page has long supported such fun learning projects.

Races were separate for each grade, all done June 7 as part of the fund day on the second to last day of the 2017-18 school year. There were prizes for children assigned to the first four or five ducks that reached the finish point. A pole stretched across the creek, at the finish where the creek runs beneath a classroom building.

The race was a fun conclusion to the school-wide reading incentive, over the prior five full months starting in January. Over that time, students were encouraged to read often and with comprehension and enjoyment.

They tracked books they read, on a bingo-type card. One such card was given each month per student. The card’s blocks were labeled for types of books. They included fiction, nonfiction, autobiography and poetry. Many monthly cards had a unique subject, as well, such as Olympics for February.

Smith praised how the Henderson County Public Library supported the project, checking each monthly card and even setting books aside for students that fit the assigned subjects.

Everett Nabers-Wilson, who just finished second grade, is among those who earned the max of five ducks via reading. He finished each month’s reading card completely. He was as spirited as anyone rooting on ducks, verbally and gesturing such as thrusting his arm upward with joy.

Everett said he best enjoyed non-fiction and specifically history. He read biographies about Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King among others.

When asked by The Tribune which person in history current or past he would most like to meet and chat with, Everett replied the current Queen of England. His mother, Rachel Wilson, volunteers as a reading tutor of Atkinson kindergarteners.

A prize was given and rights awarded for one toy duck, for completing at least one line across the reading card horizontally or diagonally, or else up and down it. The card had five rows and five columns. The middle space was a bonus one, if needed.

The other 24 square had to be earned by reading a book of that genre. To earn the full 24 spots in that month, the youth had to average reading one book in one and one-fourth days.

In the biggest treat of all, the 31 students (out of 359 in the school) who fully completed all five monthly reading cards got to see a movie free in Flat Rock Cinemas. A school group went there and saw “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” on a field trip three days before the duck race.

The final race was between ducks of the second grade. Winners were, in order: Hana Price, Mia Hernandez, Sarah Bomar, and Dylan Hernandez. There were 96 ducks in the race, and 140 in the first-grade contest.

In the fifth grade race, Warren Schuler won as his ducks took three of the first four finishes.

That same day, students each got to pick five books from the school library to read over the summer. Reading instructor Smith gave incentive for a student to read at least a half-hour daily, and to record it in a log. Those who do so are the first onto the water slide, on campus Aug. 31. That looms as a fun way to mark the 2018-19 academic year.

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