Will Piano Guys, David Archuleta accept LaVerkin Elementary’s reading challenge? Governor, BYU football accept

LAVERKIN — On May 12, Gov. Gary Herbert and his wife Jeanette, Brigham Young University football players and coaches, country singer Eric Dodge and other prominent figures will join LaVerkin Elementary students, parents and staff in a reading challenge that is going viral for all the right reasons.

It all starts with a “call out.” Each class at the elementary school is allowed to challenge someone to either come to their class to read to them or to video themselves reading and send it to the school. The video “call outs” are posted to the school’s Facebook page where celebrities, political leaders, musicians and other public personalities are challenged to participate – the list is long.

Notable figures who have already accepted the challenge include Utah’s governor and first lady; country singer Eric Dodge; Hurricane High School principal, Jody Rich; KSL News specialist, Nadine Wimmer; and BYU Football whose acceptance video has garnered over 36,000 views.

BYU Football players and coaches plan to visit the elementary school with a film crew in order to spread the reading challenge even further by inviting other universities to read in their local schools, said Amy Christiansen, LaVerkin Elementary’s Title 1 coordinator.

Washington County School District Superintendent Larry Bergeson and other district leaders will also be participating.

“It is so exciting for these kids to see these people that they look up to getting involved in wanting to read,” Christiansen said.

Some of the classrooms have yet to hear back from the people they challenged including Utah’s own American Idol competitor David Archuleta; music and mutlimedia stars The Piano Guys; and BYU’s Studio C comedy television show. Christiansen is hopeful they will accept, she said.

The reading challenge is the culmination of a yearlong reading program designed to help the children earn their reading degrees – degrees the school program is calling associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and finishing the program off with a doctorate. In the fall, the children earned their associate, in December their bachelor’s, in February their master’s and in May they will earn their doctorate.

Throughout the process the students have been participating in grade-specific challenges that have helped build a stronger foundation in reading.

In addition to the students earning reading degrees, Christiansen said parents have been able to participate along with their children by completing adult-specific criteria in order to earn their reading degrees as well, setting a good example to the children of the importance of reading.

LaVerkin Elementary is a Title 1 school which means that a large portion of the student body comes from low-income families. About 74 percent of LaVerkin Elementary students qualify for free or reduced lunch, Christiansen said, which is the determining factor of becoming a Title 1 school.

Christiansen anticipates that percentage of low-income students to grow to about 80 percent of the student population in the 2016-17 school year.

Title 1 schools receive additional federal funding in order to ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards, information on the United States Department of Education Web page said, but the funding is contingent upon the school providing additional academic support in core subjects such as reading and mathematics, particularly to the most at-risk students or lowest-achieving students.

Parent participation is also key to these programs, Christiansen said, so they try to incorporate more parent nights and add ways the parents can support their students in learning.

The reading challenge will conclude at the school on May 12 where the children will receive their honorary doctorates in reading.

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