Bullis School’s third- through fifth-grade students were given a challenge last fall: Read 1 million words each by the end of the school year.
“I think most of them thought . . . there’s no way,” said fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Houston. “But the kids were seeing their progress. That’s really exciting to them.”
It turned out that many were up for the challenge. Thirty-eight out of 81 lower-school students read at least 1 million words. Together the kids tallied more than 100 million words.
Their accomplishments were celebrated recently at the Potomac school’s annual Read-In Day, in which students bring a book and a blanket — or even a tent — and skip most classes in order to read.
Third-grader Julia Evans logged 1,521,599 words. Luckily she didn’t have to count them herself; her teacher kept track with the help of a computer program.
On Read-In Day, Julia settled in on her classroom floor with her purple pillow and “Survivors: The Empty City” by Erin Hunter, a tale of dogs who are abandoned by humans after a disaster strikes. She said she enjoys animal stories.
“My all-time favorite is ‘The One and Only Ivan,’ ” Julia said of this year’s Newbery-winning story of a gorilla who lives in a mall instead of the jungle.
David Reed, a fifth-grade teacher, had nine of his 13 students become “millionaires,” or kids who read 1 million words.
One of those, Caesar Wain, said it wasn’t difficult to be the school’s top reader, with more than 5 million words logged. He said he read about 45 minutes every day of the school year. The 10-year-old offered up one of his favorite titles.
“I would recommend ‘The Hobbit.’ It’s fantasy, and there’s a lot of action,” Caesar said of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic.
Although many in the class were avid readers at the beginning of the year, Reed said the word challenge helped several students tune into reading.
“Just picking up a book instead of doing something else, a lot of them have changed in that way,” Reed said.
One of those is Will Ferris, who is 10. Will said he has become a big fan of the Alex Rider and the Percy Jackson series. He’s figured out why he’s hooked.
“The one thing that makes me want to read the next book: the cliffhanger,” Will said of the writer’s use of suspense at the end of a book. “I get so mad, but there’s another book coming out so that makes me feel better.”