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'Sundae Fun Day' celebrates reading 1 million hours

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Laurie Everett/The Wilson Post West Elementary Principal Becky Siever takes it well as students douse her with the makings of a sundae as part of an incentive to spur students to read a million minutes outside the classroom. The met the goal and exceeded it.
Laurie Everett/The Wilson Post West Elementary top “Rock Star Readers” turn Principal Becky Siever into a human ice cream sundae as a fun incentive because they met a school-wide goal to read one million minutes outside the classroom since September.
Laurie Everett/The Wilson Post West Assistant Principal Chris Plummer can’t keep from laughing as the school’s top readers turn him into a human sundae.
Laurie Everett/The Wilson Post West Librarian Stephanie Jernigan organized the school-wide reading challenge. She took on the role as a human sundae because students met her challenge to read one million minutes outside of class since September.
Laurie Everett/The Wilson Post West Assistant Principal Chris Plummer can’t keep from laughing as the school’s top readers turn him into a human sundae.

Reading 50,000 minutes since late September was a piece of cake for West Elementary fifth grader Jonnie Meador.

But, a piece of cake wasn't her reward. Rather, it was all about turning her principals into human sundaes that was, well, the cherry on top for this veracious reader and her fellow classmates.

Meador was a top reader in the school's first ever, school-wide "Read like a Rock Star" one million-minute reading challenge organized by the school's librarian, Stephanie Jernigan.

"It was definitely a first for West Elementary and, I think, for Wilson County," Jernigan said, elated at the end result of the challenge. "And, not too many elementary schools in the United States have set this type of goal. But, we did it, and the students were beyond successful. I think their incentives might have had a little to do with it! But, the outcome was fantastic."

It began late September and pushed through late March with the school's first through fifth grade students' goal set to complete a combined one million minutes of reading outside of regular school hours by the school year's end. Even newbie "sight word" readers in kindergarten had their own challenge - with big rewards, too. Three of the tykes joined their older counterparts from each grade in making human sundaes out of the school's administrators Thursday afternoon.

In addition to the incentive to turn the principals into human sundaes, the school's walls were adorned with pictures of their teachers as rock stars and "milestone" rock-star-themed prizes awarded throughout the school year.

While the original, seemingly unattainable, challenge was completed early, it still surges to attain an additional 250,000 minutes read before end of school year. However, first things first. All the students were rewarded last week with sundae treats, which were a delicious precursor to their real endeavor, turning principals Becky Siever and Chris Plummer, and let's not forget their beloved librarian Jernigan, into virtual human sundaes. Each grade's top minute readers were recognized, lauded and brought to the middle of the gym to take part in the sundae fun day.

The gym floor was covered in tarps and all the sundae 'sundries' were nearby. Of course, ice cream, sprinkles, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and other goodies were ready for students to douse their favorite administrators. And they did - big time. Siever, Plummer and Jernigan first "prepared" for the onslaught and donned plastic snorkeling gear and capes to keep themselves from drowning in syrup.

"I'm ready, for sure," Siever said. "I'm just so proud. One million minutes. That's unreal. This is a wonderful challenge, and I'm up to be a human sundae."

It didn't take too long to transform the administrators into gloppy messes, and the students went wild. Their million minutes of reading not only gave them this silly thrill but also put them on the road to successful lives. Jernigan said research shows 20 minutes of "sustained" reading a day dramatically improves reading skills.

"Good reading skills help with everything in life," she said. "We've tested throughout the year and watched those skills improve more rapidly than before the challenge."

She said she doesn't know how many books read equal a million minutes collectively, but it has to be hundreds, she said. The students' goal to read an additional 250,000 more minutes before year's end has already reached 135,000, according to Jernigan. While the human sundae fest is unprecedented, if reached, this second goal is rewarded with a school-wide pajama day.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at

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education, reading, students, West Elementary, Wilson County Schools
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