Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 26, 2017

Pence principal turned into sundae

Read Across America offered sweet deal for Pence students
By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Mar 07, 2017
Courtesy of: COLE BOATRIGHT Pence Elementary School student Kylie Felt turns Principal Chuck Benge into a human sundae Thursday by dumping ice cream on his head. Benge had promised the students that if they read 1,000 books, he would let the top reader in each grade pour ice cream and toppings on his head. The students read 1,454 books, and Benge made good on his promise.

Pence Elementary School principal Chuck Benge can honestly call himself a sweet person — at least he was last week anyway, when he was covered in ice cream, caramel and whipped cream with a cherry on top.

“The things you do for children!” Benge chortled about allowing his students to turn him into a human ice cream sundae after they excelled in a national book-reading contest Thursday.

“They put ice cream on my bald head — it was cold!” he said.

Pence students joined students from around the country in participating in Read Across America Day, in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

“Mrs. [Hillary] Duran, she is a second grade teacher, headed it all up, and got information for me about the program. This is the first time the school has participated in this activity,” he said.

Benge challenged the student body to read 1,000 books, and if they did, he’d let the highest readers of each grade turn him into a giant sundae.  When it was all said and done, Pence students had devoured 1,454 books.

“It made me feel just awesome to know that they were so driven to [turn] me into a sundae,” he said.

What’s more, Benge said not just any books would make the grade, students had to read books on their own independent reading level.

“We have two libraries, a regular library and a level library called book nook,” he said, explaining that with book nook, each student has a running record that tells their teacher their own independent reading level, instructional reading level and their frustration reading level.

Students check out book nook books and read them at home to an adult, who has to sign off each time.

“For every 10 books or 10 chapters they read, depending on their grade, they get a reward,” he said.

Younger students might read entire books, while older students get credit for each chapter in longer texts. The program, which goes up to fourth grade, is designed to promote reading for fun at home.

“There were five who helped turn me into a sundae; they read 12 to 27 books during that one week,” he said.

Benge said the school district is doing Iowa Assessments this week, and that he hoped the big reading boost last week would help to improve reading scores.

However, Read Across America is not the only thing the school is doing to improve student literacy.

“We are always doing stuff to get them to boost their reading up,” he said. “Right now the big event is [Pence] Literacy Night, which is April 13.”

Benge said Read Across America was not only a success as far as student reading, but the project was also great for student morale.

“They loved it,” he said. “They talked about it the rest of the day, and after school. They were so hyped about it. I saw one of them at Walmart Saturday and they were still hyped about how I got turned into a sundae.”

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