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Do you love books? Reading pays off

Young Kaylee Floyd’s T-shirt said enough.

The white letters on the black shirt read, “I love books.” Except a red heart replaced the word love.

It was an appropriate clothing choice for the third grader Tuesday, the day of her school’s awards day program.

Kaylee is the reader of the year in the McLaurin Elementary School third grade.

She earned the title based on her performance in the academic program called Accelerated Reader.

Most area schools use AR, which assigns a point value to books and encourages students to read books on or above their pre-tested reading level. Students who read a book and pass a comprehension test on the book accumulate points over the course of the year.

For the year, Kaylee earned 139.1 points with a 92.1-percent comprehension test average. The majority of those points were earned during the last semester of school — which happened to be an important contest period.

From January to April, Kaylee earned 82.6 points with a 92-percent comprehension level.

Her reading — including that of her favorite chapter book, which was worth 12 points — made her the winner of a contest our newspaper sponsored.

Back, just before Christmas, I inquired — on behalf of our staff — about how The Natchez Democrat could be a more active Partner in Education at McLaurin. We had signed up years before to partner with the school, saying we’d assist when needed.

But a few folks in our building had interest in turning our assistance into something more — motivation, connection and involvement.

We asked teachers at the school what they needed the most, and they expressed worries over motivating students to read.

Students would do the required classroom work, but they didn’t pick up any extra books.

Since we are big fans of reading ourselves, we quickly agreed to do what we could to encourage the third grade students to hit the books.

We had a fun-filled kickoff at the school in January, promising students we’d reward the top readers.

After that, our staff members visited the school multiple times to read to each third-grade reading class.

Since the kickoff, we’ve honored seven top readers in the newspaper.

Cedrick Jones, Yakallie Nickelson, Miracle Morris, Aaliyah Hardin, Jakayla Hunt, Tremarkus Childress and Jailyn Franklin each led the school in reading one week out of the last few months.

But Kaylee’s love for books meant she was consistently reading all semester long.

So Tuesday morning, we honored all seven weekly readers and Kaylee, the overall winner, with her choice of a special prize.

Kaylee received an Apple iPad — the most coveted of all gifts for today’s third graders, apparently. And I’m sure it won’t be long before she has quite a few iBooks downloaded.

Congratulations to Kaylee and her parents, Gary and Terry Floyd.

We love books, too, and we hope Kaylee and the other children will expand their reading options to include newspapers and magazines in the coming years.

Kaylee’s shirt had a great message, but I loved something else about it too — it was black and white and “read” all over, just like your favorite newspaper.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.