The Houston Independent School District announced Thursday a partnership with the Houston NCAA Final Four Local Organizing Committee, Houston Public Library and the University of Houston on a bracket-themed reading challenge that encourages students to read at least 30 minutes a day.
Nearly 6,800 third-graders will participate in the reading challenge known as the NCAA Team Works Read to the Final Four Literacy Program leading up to the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four that will be held in Houston April 2-4 at NRG Stadium.
“As a district, we are determined to ensure that every single student is reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade,” said HISD Chief Academic Officer Andrew Houlihan. “When our students become stronger readers, they become better writers, critical thinkers and communicators. Their ability to read proficiently is tied to their overall success in school and life.”
The reading challenge kicked off Thursday with a special celebration at Blackshear Elementary School, one of 68 campuses selected to participate in the competition. Schools will advance in the literacy competition based on the amount of time their students spend reading. Only schools with the highest average number of reading minutes will continue in the competition. The winning school will be announced in April and will receive a $5,000 cash prize, Final Four trophy, campus celebration, and recognition at an official Final Four event.
“We want to give students enthusiasm for reading because reading can take them places that they may never get to go,” said Houston Final Four Local Organizing Committee President/CEO Doug Hall.
Schools were selected to participate in the challenge based on its high enrollment of at-risk students and commitment to the district’s Literacy By 3 Initiative. Launched in the fall of 2014, Literacy By 3 aims to have every child reading on grade level by the end of third grade. To help facilitate reading, the Houston Public Library will provide each student with a free library card that allows students access to all Houston-area libraries and digital learning resources.
During the celebration, students received a library card, shot hoops with players from the University of Houston men’s basketball team, were read to by UH men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson, and visited the HISD and Houston Public Library reading mobiles equipped with books and digital reading tools.
“It’s wonderful to see our students excited about reading,” said HISD Board of Education Trustee Paula Harris. “They understand that their participation in this challenge means they have to use their time wisely by watching less T.V. and putting down those video games for a book. That extra time spent reading will be worth it because they will be better students in the end.”