When most Alaskans talk about rigs they're usually speaking about the drilling rigs that are responsible for more than 80% of Alaska's revenue and our Permanent Fund Dividend checks, but not the students, teachers and parents at K-Beach Elementary School.
At K-Beach, RIGS means "Reading Is Great in Summer," and the dividends can be even greater than finding oil and add to your families Permanent Fun. RIGS is a summer reading incentive program created by three K-Beach Elementary teachers, Gloria Sweeney, Kristi Felchle, and Mary Beth Verhelst, "The three of us were doing our Masters program and came up with the idea of getting the kids motivated to read during the summer because we work very hard during the school year to increase their level of reading, then during their summer off, they regress and don't pick up where they left off in the spring, so we created RIGS as an incentive program to keep them reading during the summer," said Kristi Felchle.
Now in its third year RIGS is a competition for students and teachers to see who will be the top summer reader when the kids return to school in the fall. When the kids at K-Beach left school for the summer, they were all invited to participate in the competition and take home with them a RIGS three month calendar to keep track of the minutes they read each day. "It's really caught on, all the hype and excitement of the first assembly in the fall where we crown the king or queen of reading and pass out the T-shirts has really encouraged the kids to participate. Our motto at school is become a RIGS kid, and the goal is 300 minutes each month to become one," said Gloria Sweeney. All students participating are recognized at an assembly in the fall for their reading efforts over the summer. They receive a certificate with their picture that is posted in the foyer of the school and those students meeting the 900 minutes goal receive a RIGS T-shirt complements of the Soldotna Rotary Club.
There is no book list or material requirements, "We only ask that they read and keep track of the minutes, it can be anything from cereal boxes to Dr. Seuss or Harry Potter," added Sweeney. According to Mary Beth Verhelst, the parents play a huge part in the program, "We have to congratulate the parents, they are a real partner in helping add up the minutes, and for some of the younger ones they need help, it has them doing math too on an almost daily basis, but parents are a great help and motivator, and every kid that reads is a winner" said Verhelst. The RIGS score sheets have tips for parents to help their child become a better reader that include talking about what your child reads, getting a library card for your child and make visiting the library a family event, having your child read to others, and making sure your child owns their own books by encouraging relatives to give books as gifts.
In mid summer, July 15-17, there will be a book fair at the Safeway to sponsor Kenai Peninsula Literacy Programs and give kids a chance to get more material. According to the three teachers, the results from the RIGS program have proven their theory that if kids read during the summer; they don't regress in their reading skills and return at the same or even higher skill level then when they left for summer break.
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