St. Francis students win top W.Va. reading prize

MORGANTOWN — St. Francis Central Catholic School took a few minutes to celebrate itself Friday afternoon.

The school on Guthrie Lane turned a page with a special recognition.

St. Francis students over the summer read for 851,165 minutes — or more than 14,000 hours — over the summer.

No, that’s not a typo, said school advancement director Rachel Scudiere Vitt.

It was part of the annual Reading Challenge staged by Scholastic, the publishing house for children that cranks out books and other educational materials for young learners.

Students in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, took the challenge and St. Francis Central Catholic was Scholastic’s “Best in State” for West Virginia.

What was best in state for a reading competition will be to the lasting betterment of St. Francis’ students, Vitt said.

The idea of the challenge, Vitt said, is to counteract the dreaded “summer slide” — the inevitable learning-loss downtrend that happens during every vacation break.

This year’s theme, “A Magical Summer of Reading,” tied in with the 20th anniversary of author J.K. Rowling’s popular Harry Potter book series.

Weekly prizes themed to those books were awarded during the challenge, and parents and families also had access to free reading resources, including book lists for all ages in English and Spanish.

Mary Ann Deschaine, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston presented a plaque with her thanks for a (reading) job well done.

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 students read nearly 136 million minutes during this year’s challenge, which Michael Haggen said always makes for a good story.

“Students read during the summer and head back to school ready to do grade-level work,” he said.

“We look forward to seeing them continue to grow their literacy skills and passion for reading.”

SPOILER ALERT: Students at H.D. Hilley Elementary School in El Paso, Texas, led this year’s challenge. They logged 4.1 million minutes’ worth of reading.

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