Readathon blasts off at Paul Banks

The excitement Paul Banks Elementary School students have for reading is too big to be contained on Earth. They’ve taken it to the universe and beyond.

On Tuesday, the school launched “Blast Off and Read,” an outer space-sized adventure that includes, of course, an alien visitation with a little help from the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai via the Internet. Incorporating the “space” theme into all areas of study, the Anchorage Museum’s StarLab, a portable planetarium, will pay a visit to the school on Feb. 12.

The readathon’s goal is to promote reading as a fun and exciting activity. Through pledges supporting individual students’ reading efforts, the event also serves as a fundraiser for school trips, books for the school’s “Bingo For Books” event and other school equipment.

The target is for the student body to read a total of 125,000 minutes between Tuesday and Feb. 19.   

The readathon’s story line, as presented at Tuesday’s kick-off assembly, is focused around the discovery of an alien-inhabited planet. The aliens wish to visit Earth, but don’t have a spacecraft and don’t know how to build one. Every time Paul Banks’ students read 12,500 minutes, the aliens are given an instruction page to help them build their spacecraft. Once they rceive all the instructions — 10 pages — they will be able to complete the spacecraft’s construction and fly themselves to Earth.

Sightings of the aliens were presented at the kick-off assembly, with the help of Mission Control at the Challenger Learning Center. Fortunately, Mission Control has the required technology to translate alien-speak.

Instruction pages to be given the aliens are being written by the second-grade students in teacher Laurie Martin’s classroom. First-grade students in Wendy Todd’s classroom have created alien art for the school’s front hall bulletin board.

“The school will be decorated top to bottom with space bulletin boards and more,” said Dodd, who coordinates the event.

“It’s an exciting time for everyone at our school.”

Families and friends can support the reader or readers of their choice or sponsor the school-wide effort by calling the Paul Banks office at 235-8161.

“Students can collect a flat amount or they can get pledges for every 15 minutes they read,” said Todd.

“There are prizes for the student at each grade level that reads the most minutes and the student at each grade level that collects the most money.”

In addition, the class at each grade level that reads the most minutes gets a pizza party.

Another way to help the youngsters, especially kindergartners, reach the reading goal is by reading to them.

“Many of our (kindergarten) students are reading, but being read to counts as well,” said Todd. 

Readathon is an annual event at Paul Banks Elementary School. The feedback received indicates it does exactly what is hoped for: encourage youngsters to sharpen their reading skills.

“So many parents say how much more excited their kids are about reading and the gains they make during readathon,” said Todd.

The pig-napping of Guinevere the pig occurred during Paul Banks’ 2011-2012 “Saddle Up and Read” readathon kick-off assembly. A ransom note left by the two                      pig rustlers demanded the students read a total of 100,000 minutes in exchange for Guinevere’s safe return. The youngsters were so excited by the event, however, that they read more than 130,000 minutes and cheered loudly when Principal Benny Abraham puckered up to greet the returned porker with a big kiss.

With this year’s 125,000-minute goal and an alien visit possible, who knows how much the students will read?

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.