For generations, librarians have been legendary for their super “shhhhhhhh-ing” powers.
But last Thursday, in a certain departure from the profession’s tradition of shushing, Golden Terrace Elementary School’s media specialist — that’s the modern term for librarian — had 500 third, fourth and fifth grade students shouting and stomping in the school’s cafeteria.
Dressed as “Super Reader,” complete with wig, Wonder Woman shirt and white superhero boots, media specialist Tiffany Weeks showed her real super power: getting kids fired up about reading.
“After last year’s pep rally, I literally ran from the cafeteria down to the media center and told them, ‘Get ready they’re coming!’” said the high energy Weeks, pulling off the now iconic wig and glasses that have become integral to her “Super Reader” costume.
The pep rally was a kickoff event for the Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Program, a statewide effort to get kids more interested in reading. From every corner of the cafeteria, 500 voices ricocheted off the concrete walls, chanting:
“Power up (stomp, stomp),
Power up (stomp, stomp),
Power up (stomp, stomp),
Power up with reading!”
The idea to get Golden Terrace students involved in the Sunshine Young Reader’s Award Program came from Weeks’ own daughter, Madison.
“She enjoyed the Sunshine State Books program so much at her school that it was on the top of my list to get that program going when I started as the media specialist here,” said Weeks, adding, “It’s proved to be a great motivator.”
She credits that motivation to a little friendly competition. The reader who finishes the most books wins an entire basket of books. Readers that complete all 15 of the Sunshine State Reader’s books get to spend half a day being the school’s acting media specialist.
“We saw motivation kind of move in a curve, it was really strong at first, then tapered until the kids started to see some of their classmate’s achievements,” she said.
The idea for the pep rally, however, was more of an accident. Last year, Weeks planned an assembly to introduce the Sunshine Young Reader’s Award Program to her students. The assembly was to take place a few days before a superhero-themed book fair she’d planned. In an attempt to merge the two events, Weeks decided to conduct the assembly in a Wonder Woman outfit. From there, Super Reader was born.
“Oh, my daughter and my husband think I’m crazy, but I think they like how excited I get,” said Weeks of what her family thought when they saw her white go-go boots and black spandex pants.
And in case seeing their media specialist dressed as a super hero wasn’t enough to get her students fired up on the power of words, Weeks enlisted the help of local foundation K is for Kids. Since nothing jumpstarts the motivation better than the promise of something free, the K is for Kids Foundation swooped in (in true super hero style) and offered every child in the pep rally a free book, just for signing a reading pledge.
“It’s just such a great cause,” raved the organization’s executive director, Karen Clawsen, adding, “spreading the word on the power of words, it’s so important.”
Golden Terrace Elementary School student Daylin Lam didn’t need to be told twice the power of words. The avid reader was the first to turn in her reading pledge.
“I read everywhere,” said the articulate fifth grader. “I love to read; I have a cabinet full of books.”
Lam reads so much that her mom occasionally scolds her.
“I love to read at night, I get the flashlight from my phone and read in the dark,” revealed Lam. But her mom’s scolding certainly won’t deter the budding bookworm. “I know it’s going to help me because reading is knowledge. I get a lot of my info from reading.”
Back in the cafeteria where the pep rally continued, Weeks paced in front of the crowd of students, asking, “How many of you are going to read three books?” Every hand in the room shot up, a few kids even raised both hands. But one boy in the back failed to raise his hand. The reason? He was too engrossed in a book to even hear what was going on.