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What Do Reading and Glow Sticks Have In Common?

Teachers are always trying to come up with new ways to get students excited about reading more books, and fourth-grade teacher Alana London came up with a brilliant idea. London created the Reading Makes Us Bright program and challenged students at Eileen B. Brookman Elementary School to read a whopping 20,000 books within a single semester. Hundreds of students participated, smashing through a previous record of 9,000 books. As a bonus, the kids ended up breaking the glow stick world record.

Reading comprehension is one of the most important skills elementary school students learn as part of their studies. With the rise of digital devices and games, it can sometimes be a challenge to interest kids in good old-fashioned book reading. Book reading goal programs are an increasingly popular method of sparking a child’s desire to read for the pure joy of it. While books such as the Harry Potter series are popular among young readers, there is a broad range of books waiting to be enjoyed by this audience.

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Alana London decided to up the ante on her book reading program by setting the goal at 20,000 books. That’s quite a bit of reading for kids to take on, but she didn’t stop there. To sweeten the deal for the program’s readers, London offered to give each program participant a glow stick for every book read, and tested at 80 percent reading comprehension. Needless to say, the kids found this offer appealing, and hundreds of Brookman students took up the challenge with gusto. Of course, this meant the program needed 20,000 glow sticks at the ready to hand out.

Like many teachers who care deeply about the children they interact with daily, London volunteered to supply the glow sticks. She and her husband, Alan, made sure every reader received a glow stick as promised. Alan, a magician who performs his show at the local D Hotel and Casino, enthusiastically supported his wife. However, the glow sticks were much more than rewards. The program’s secondary goal was to achieve a new Guinness World Record for the largest chain of lighted glow sticks.

With the school’s approval, the reading program launched during the Fall of 2015, and from the start, the program was a success. All of the kids attending Brookman participated in this record-breaking attempt. These types of reading programs are often a lot of fun for the kids, and the improvement of reading comprehension test scores are a side benefit for students and teachers. Over a period of 15 weeks, students read as many books as they could handle. Amazingly, Brookman students read over 21,000 books during the semester, which is well over the program’s initial goal.

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Some students received recognition for their efforts on the Reading Makes Us Bright school wall display, which features photos of readers and the number of books read by each. It was then time to bring all of the glow sticks earned back to the school to build a continuous chain. Breaking a Guinness World Record requires lots of effort from numerous school volunteers. Fortunately, Brookman’s playground had ample space for volunteers and glow sticks.

A video made by the school shows how the glow stick chain came together as volunteers connected 20,000 glow sticks, forming a huge, but orderly, winding pattern across the entire playground. Breaking down the numbers, the chain stretched out to a record-breaking 13,872 feet. In comparison, the previous world record, held by an Australian school, used a mere 9,800 glow sticks.

Alana joins a long list of elementary school teachers who demonstrate they have the ability to inspire children. Teachers like London are often more appreciated than they realize, as this retiring teacher also found out.

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