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Cathedral School kicks off Accelerated Reader program

NATCHEZ — No traveler is completely dressed unless he has a book to read.

That was the slogan of the Accelerated Reader program kick-off celebration at Cathedral School Wednesday.

Students ages 3 to sixth grade traveled the world Wednesday in their school halls dressed as tourists of their choice destination with a book in hand.

Miniature tourists wore panama, straw, cowboy, newsboy, baseball and other hats to sink into the spirit of world travel by book.

The halls were decorated for different countries and U.S. regions to match the world travel theme of the school year.

Many schools in Natchez participate in the nationally popular Accelerated Reading program, but Cathedral is an AR veteran.

The program encourages independent reading by assigning point-values to books and allowing students to set individual goals.

“It’s at their own level and their own pace,” Elementary Librarian Leigh Anderson said.

Anderson said since the program started 15 years ago, students check out books so often that she started a system where books are checked in and out inside zip-lock bags to prevent wear and tear.

The program encourages students to read 60 minutes a day, with approximately 20 minutes spent at school.

When students finish tests early or have spare time in the classroom, they use it to log AR points.

In addition, teachers may put aside a few minutes for accelerated reading when finishing class early.

High School Librarian Karen Foley said she brought the program to Cathedral after seeing how much her niece and nephew, who participated in the program at their school in Baton Rouge, talked about books.

“Socially, the kids talk about these books,” Anderson said.

Sixth-grade student John Elliot Ward commented on classmate Carmen Serio’s love of reading as he passed her in the hall.

“Just about any book she’ll read,” Ward said.

Serio agreed with Ward, but she said her favorite genres are romance and comedy.

Right now she is reading “Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen.

Serio’s method of choosing what she reads has nothing to do with the book cover.

After skimming the first few pages or first chapter, Serio said she decides to read a book if it hooks her.

Sixth-grade student Edson Martinez is one of the highest-achieving accelerated readers in school, Anderson said.

Martinez’s name is painted on the wall outside the library for earning 500 points, along with every other student who earned 500 points since the program started.

Martinez is in the middle of the “Warriors” series, by Erin Hunter.

What keeps the pages turning for Martinez?

“It’s fun. I learn more stuff, and there are lots of pages, and it keeps going and it gets more exciting,” he said.

Students mostly check out books from the library, which are logged in the AR system and assigned a point value.

Anderson said she often chooses books for students based on their tastes.

For fifth-grade student Abigail Hand, who wore a kilt as a tourist of Scotland, Anderson said she recommends fantasy books because Hand likes them best.

For fifth-grade student Hannah Jenkins, who was dressed to “go book shopping in Paris,” Anderson recommends sad books.

“Closer to the end it gets happier,” Jenkins said of one of her favorite sad books, “My Louisiana Sky,” by Kimberly Willis Holt.

Anderson said the program also gives students self-confidence from setting their own goals and getting a chance to achieve them.

“It’s a phenomenal program that makes them love to read and learn to succeed,” Anderson said.