During the 2018-2019 school year, Lincoln K-8 students and staff achieved a reading revolution, led by library manager Mollie Borquist. In awarding Borquist the Remarkable Spirit award in May, assistant principal Michelle Cruz cited an impressive statistic: in May 2018, 315 Lincoln K-8 students had not taken an Accelerated Reader (AR) test during the school year. By the last week of school in May 2019, every Lincoln K-8 student had taken and passed at least one AR test.
Borquist cites other strong number: during the 2018-2019 year, the student body had read 19,769 books and passed the accompanying AR test. During the final 30 days of 2018-2019, 71 percent of Lincoln students had successfully taken and passed an AR test, 20 points ahead of the district building average. Successfully passing AR tests shows that students are not only reading but comprehending what they are reading.
Together, Borquist and Lincoln staff members, with help from Peoria County Republican Women, executed multi-faceted year-long incentive programs to encourage every student to read books and take AR tests. Among the incentives:
Each month classrooms in which 100 percent of students successfully taking and passing an AR test earn a uniform-free day.
Top readers in each classroom earn gift cards before the holidays in December.
During March Madness, classrooms compete to earn the highest AR average per student with the top primary-grade classroom earning a pizza party and the top middle-school-grade classroom earning a trip to March Madness experience. Mirroring March Madness basketball, classrooms compete in brackets, win trophies and continue competing in a consolation pool.
At the end of the school year, the top 50 primary and top 50 middle school students earned a trip to Elevate Trampoline Park.
Lincoln students are not only reading more, they participate in choosing the books that Borquist acquires for the library. “If I had to pick the AR challenge that started our culture change, it was the U Pick ‘em Grade Level Challenge,” says Borquist. “Each homeroom competed to earn the most AR points. The homerooms at each grade level with the most points got to pick out $25 worth of Scholastic Books for the school library and the top class got to pick out $50 worth of books. I put stickers on the inside front cover of each book crediting the class making the donation. The challenge creates student ownership in the library. They got to pick what they want to read, rather than what we think they should read. I also think they take better care of the books they help select. Students put suggested book titles in a suggestion box, and I use those when I can buy library books.”
Lincoln students also share their love of reading. AVID students read to kindergarten and English Language Learner (ELL) students.
“I work with a phenomenal group of people,” says Borquist, crediting the Lincoln staff. “We have made strides. We still have work to do but creating the culture of taking and passing AR tests is a step in the right direction.”