The Arlington Junior School Annual Reading Challenge

By Lois Grubb, REACH Education Committee

Joyce reading to students during 2017 Reading Challenge Launch

Since 2006, our dedicated students at Arlington Junior School (AJS) went “Wild About Reading,” had a “Reading Safari” in their library, discovered that reading is their “Super Power,” and learned that “Reading is an Amazing, Astounding and Very, Very Awesome Adventure!”

Focused on an engaging theme each year, the annual Reading Challenge builds a culture of reading at AJS and underscores our motto of “Learn to read, read to learn.” This fun activity reinforces our students’ reading skills while they learn new things and enjoy fictional works. AJS students have learned about the countries and animals of Africa, interesting landmarks around the world, and the Olympics. In addition to exposing them to multiple genres, the challenge helps students practice their writing and even their math skills. Over the years, the students have received bright, interactive materials along with colored pencils, crayons or markers.

Emma getting books without disturbing other books during 2017 Reading Challenge Launch

AJS shares this valuable Reading Challenge tradition with the students of their sister school, Arlington Traditional School (ATS), in Arlington, Virginia. ATS students have participated in these challenges for over thirty years! Including the AJS students in their Reading Challenge strengthens the bond between the two schools while also encouraging the students at AJS to read. This motivation is particularly important because although the school language in Uganda is English, English is not the native language of the students. Providing a fun incentive for students to read greatly improves their English skills. The students at ATS also have an annual used book sale to raise money for books for the sister AJS library. Since 2006, our AJS school library has also grown from a corner in a classroom to a beautiful facility with a full-time librarian.

Game during 2017 Reading Challenge Launch

Over the years, ATS principal Holly Hawthorne or staff members have travelled to Uganda to kick off the reading challenge by reading to the students and presenting them with their challenge booklets and materials. Most recently, former ATS students have launched the challenge at AJS while on the summer REACH teen trip to Uganda. Every fall, the students at both schools celebrate this accomplishment with a Reading Carnival Day. At AJS, the students receive reading certificates and perform skits at an assembly, play games, and participate in theme-related activities. They often receive a sweet treat and T-shirts with the reading theme logo.

Teen Trip volunteer Kathryn reading to P2 class during 2017 Reading Challenge Launch

The 2017 Reading Challenge— “Make Magic Happen…READ!” — is inspired by a Dr. Seuss quote. We’re sending Dr. Seuss books to AJS to introduce the students to his zany and whimsical world. We’re also sending magic kits with the hope that some students might enjoy wowing their friends.

Labeling parts of skeleton during 2017 Reading Challenge Launch

My dear friend, Lorraine Gandy, and I are retired ATS teachers and create the Reading Challenge materials each year for the AJS students. Lorraine is particularly talented and creative, and we have a wonderful time working together. We so enjoy the photographs of smiling AJS students receiving their reading booklets, reading books, and having fun during Reading Carnival Day. We are particularly touched when we see photographs of all the Reading Challenge themes painted on the walls of the AJS library.

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