Fort Mill Times

Gov. Haley celebrates Oakridge Middle School honor

Oakridge Middle School students love spending time with a book as shown by their third straight honor as the top reading school in the state.

Gov. Nikki Haley congratulated the students for the honor and the school’s approach of letting students decide what to read.

“Read what you like,” Haley said during an assembly at the school Oct. 16. “Read what you love.”

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is in its eighth year. This summer participating schools smashed the previous world record by logging 304,749,681 reading minutes. More than 7,300 schools participated from every state and 29 countries.

Oakridge students logged 2,795,663 minutes reading, which equals five full years and into the spring of a sixth, were the minutes consecutive.

“We’ve tried saying everyone needs to read a certain book or a certain genre, but we found the best way to get kids to read is to give them a choice,” said school principal Will Largen.

Howard Cashner, general manager of the mid-Atlantic region with Scholastic, said students at assemblies sometimes can’t grasp what an accomplishment they’ve made. Oakridge ranked No. 17 in the world, ahead of schools in South America, Europe and elsewhere.

“This is the third year in a row that you’re winning this,” Cashner said. “This is amazing. This is my third year here, and I can’t wait for next year, because I know you’ll be back.”

Largen said middle school students in summer can find plenty to do other than reading, such as sports, travel and other commitments. Only five middle schools made the top 100 overall in the summer reading event.

“Making time to read for pleasure is not easy in middle school,” he said.

Clover School District Superintendent Marc Sosne said future success depends on reading to enhance the mind.

“Reading for pleasure is a lifelong skill,” Sosne said. “The more you do it, the better you will get at it.”

Reading logs showed students create better reading habits as they progress through Oakridge. Eighth-graders averaged 35 minutes per day during the summer compared to 30 minutes for seventh-graders and 15 minutes for sixth-graders.

Students showed up for the assembly with the governor dressed as sailors, ninjas, mice, “Hunger Games” characters and more as part of dress up like a favorite children’s book character day. Haley said the effort to promote literacy for fun at Oakridge is something she’d like to take with her to other schools statewide.

“You did it on your own,” she told students. “You did it in the summer. You did it when you didn’t have to.”

And, they did it just about as well as anyone in the world.

“You weren’t just good at it,” Haley said. “You were great at it.”