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The reading challenge is on

New Richmond High School students in Joshua Fiege’s social studies class read their books during a 10-minute quiet time on Friday, Nov. 1, as part of the school’s Great Tiger Reading Challenge. (Photos by Jordan Willi)1 / 3
Students in Ann Scharfenberg’s social studies class at New Richmond High School take a break from their daily schedule on Friday, Nov. 1, to read for 10 minutes as part of the Great Tiger Reading Challenge put on by the school. 2 / 3
Ali Saliny’s social studies class takes a break from learning to read on Friday, Nov. 1, as part of the Great Tiger Reading Challenge put on at New Richmond High School. 3 / 3

With the second semester at New Richmond High School getting underway, the students and faculty have less than a semester to beat the Great Tiger Reading Challenge by reading more than the 3,885 books the school read throughout last year.

“This is the first year we have done this challenge and it is something we wanted to do to help students with their reading skills,” high school principal Tom Wissink said. “The expectations have gone up for students to perform well and be successful after high school. It benefits everyone to be a good reader.”

The challenge is for all students and staff at the school, and the top individual readers from each grade (as well as the staff) will receive prizes at the end of each semester. For a book to count toward an individual's total, it must be an approved title and read during the time taken out of every day for the students and staff to read. After completing a book, a test is taken to see how well the individual remembers what they read. If they pass, the book counts toward their total.

“It is set up so that the kids keep improving in their reading skills and continue to read,” Wissink said. “We are hoping to improve the school as a whole with this challenge and get everyone reading more.”

One of the main reasons Wissink decided to start the Great Tiger Reading Challenge was to help increase his students’ reading levels, which in turn should help them in college or their future jobs.

“The demands on the level of reading has increased a lot in recent years, be it for your job or just recreationally,” Wissink said. “I wanted to bring more of an emphasis to reading and help promote it throughout the school and the community. Everyone has total control over what they can learn from reading, and the ability to add more knowledge to what they already know. Reading can really help people be better prepared for what the world has in store for them.”

Among the prizes that students could get if they win the challenge at their grade level are gift cards, movie passes and a Kindle. The grade level that reads the most books earns an end-of-the year celebration.

A media specialist’s view

With more and more students checking out books to help them win the Great Tiger Reading Challenge, it becomes even more important for the high school’s media specialists to be on their toes to guide readers toward books they might like, or to cheer on the students as they try to reach their goals.

“I’ve heard a lot of students talking about the challenge and they all seem really excited about it,” said media specialist Teri Alwes. “A lot of them are coming in with requests for new books that we don’t have yet. We have a set budget for books every year, so we are constantly updating our collection.”

The number of copies the school has in stock per book depends on the book itself, Alwes said. For most books, there is just a single copy, but for more popular books there can be as many as five copies in the library’s collection. A student can also fill out a form in the library with the name and author of the book they would like to see added to the shelves. Alwes and the rest of the library staff will see if they can get a copy of the book, either by buying a new copy or borrowing one from another school.

“If we don’t have enough copies of a book and another of the schools in the district has a copy they aren’t using, we can request for them to send it over for our kids to read,” Alwes said. “A lot of our circulation and the type of books we have in our collection depends on demand. We can also get the books in a variety of bindings and sizes.”

For the most part, the library orders books with reinforced library bindings or perma-bound books which have a lifetime guarantee. If a perma-bound book is damaged beyond repair, the school can just send it back and get a brand new copy in exchange.

“Right now, the ‘Divergent’ series and the ‘Apprentice’ series are really big, along with the ‘Book Thief,’” Alwes said. “When students find out that a book is going to be made into a movie, that is when you tend to see those series being asked for more in the library. Like last spring, the ‘Hunger Games’ was a popular request from our students when that movie was just hitting theaters.”

Students are up for the challenge

To the students, the book challenge is a way for them to relax during school as well as push themselves to read more than they would otherwise. Each day during fourth period, the students and staff get 10 minutes to sit and read their books for the challenge.

“The reading time we get in school gives me a time to relax and read for a bit,” NRHS freshman Russ Hop said. “I don’t really have a goal in mind for how many books I want to read. I enjoy reading, especially crime fiction. I like them a lot because of the suspense in them.”

For student Michaela Jorstad, reading is a way for her to dive into a different world or a different time period and experience new things through the eyes of her favorite characters.

“My favorite thing about reading is the fact that I can kind of just escape from reality,” Jorstad said. “I like to read teen-romance books, kind of that typical girl stuff. One of my favorite books that I have read lately is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green.”

Jorstad also sees the reading challenge as a way for kids who usually don’t read a lot to maybe find a series or genre they like and get more into reading.

“I think that the reading challenge is a good motivator for the people that haven’t really read a whole lot to read more since the kids that already read a lot are naturally motivated to read already,” Jorstad said.

For freshman Benjamin Moe, reading is a way for him to get away from his video games for a while and enjoy some quiet time by himself with a good book.

“I think reading is another alternative to video games that is pretty neat,” Moe said. “I get involved in a book series and I just can’t stop reading. I like reading because it is a good use of time. I am drawn to fantasy and science fiction books and that kind of thing.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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