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By Hannah Romero

Sleeping on the roof, encouraging summer reading


September 29, 2022

Stephanie Peterson

A promise is a promise. Good night Principal Lake.

Last Thursday night, anyone driving by Harrison Elementary School might have noticed a tent on the roof. Anyone who stopped had the chance to wave to Harrison Principal Steven Lake as he made himself comfy on top of the school with his tent, mattress, chair, some snacks, and something to listen to. Lake spent the entire night on the roof to keep a promise to his students.

Harrison Elementary set a goal for the school to work toward together - get up to 75,000 minutes of reading time over the summer. If the goal was met, Principal Lake would spend the night on the roof, and the whole school would celebrate with an ice cream party the next day.

"We met that goal," Lake explained.

In fact, the students not only met the goal, but exceeded it. So onto the roof Lake went.

The promise of a principal camping on the roof and ice cream for everyone was just one of the incentives for students to read over the summer.

"We've been trying to get kids to get a little bit more active with their education over the summer," Lake explained. "We know it's important that kids get a break during the summer, but we also want to keep them somewhat engaged."

Most schools deal with a "summer slide," according to Lake, and can spend time at the beginning of each new school year just trying to get the students back up to the level they were at when they left. In order to help kids maintain the things they've learned and continue practicing important skills, Lake and others at Harrison came up with a number of challenges.

The challenges have to do with kids practicing skills, like reading and math, and keeping logs of their time. When they reach certain goals, they can put their names into drawings for prizes, which can range from a bike to a Chromebook. This year one of the reading challenges involved a Bingo-style game, where kids got Bingo boards and could cross off a square for every 20 minutes they read. For every Bingo they got, the kids could put their name in a drawing for a Nintendo Switch.

In addition to the individual challenges, there was the school-wide goal to read 75,000 minutes. School reading goals have been set in previous years, but not reached, so this time the school staff re-evaluated the goal to make it more attainable.

"This year we finally met it, which was awesome," Lake said. "I was excited with the good participation this year." 

When it came to sleeping on the roof, Lake was more than happy to put up with the windy night in order to keep his promise, hoping it would be something exciting and fun for the students that would "light a fire under some of them" and encourage even more kids to participate in future summers.

"One of the most important things kids can do in the summer is read, and just like any other skill, to get better at it you've got to do it," Lake said.

With kids at an elementary level in particular, reading is a foundation skill they're building on, from those who are just learning to read to those who are starting to understand and apply the skill more broadly, according to Lake. Helping the students practice reading, increase their vocabularies, and build on their skills by reading during the summer has a wide range of benefits for them.

"Every avenue of learning comes through reading as you get older," Lake said. "And so that's a huge, huge thing for all of our elementary schools. We want kids to obviously leave our schools being able to read."

When it comes to helping students learn the skills they need, Lake wants to encourage and promote activities summertime reading, so camping on a building for a night is a small price to pay.

"That's obviously the end goal, is we want more kids with books in their hands during the summertime," Lake said.


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