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FSW helps The Sanibel School kick off reading program
February 8, 2018

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Middle schoolers at The Sanibel School recently kicked off their Reading Olympics with a surprise visit from the men's and women's basketball teams from Florida SouthWestern State College.

On Jan. 26, the team members and coaching staff made a guest appearance before the youths to talk about the importance of reading, get them pumped about the program's launch and show off some skills on the court. The Reading Olympics, designed after the 2018 games, will run for a couple of months.

Assistant Principal Jamie Reid explained that reading levels tend to decrease after fifth grade.

"We're trying to promote reading with our middle school students. They're burned out by sixth grade," she said, referring the accelerated reading program that the elementary students participate in.

"We're just seeing a drop off in the interest in reading," Reid added.

In effort to get the students excited again about reading, four faculty members - Alicia Base, Paula Bolado, Jaime Cerabona and Libby Payneing - came up with the idea of mirroring a program after the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The students will earn medals in a range of events for hitting goals.

For example, a student who reads one historical fiction piece and one fantasy book will medal in the biathlon. Two classics equal a curling one, while speed skating goes to the most number of books read.

"They get medals for different books they read," she said.

Reid noted that the goal is to make reading more fun by tying it into the approaching games.

"We're trying to get the nonreaders on board," she said.

In true Olympic fashion - and to make it a bit more fun - the school partnered with FSW's basketball teams to host an opening ceremony, which involved free swag and an opportunity to win game tickets.

"And we're going to have a closing rewards ceremony with the medals," Reid said.

During the opening ceremony in the Sanibel Recreation Center's gym, which the school shares with the facility, the coaches explained how reading builds character and helps one become well-rounded.

"When you enjoy reading, you will pick up different things to read," Marty Richter, head coach of the men's team, said. "You can educate yourself on different things throughout your lifetime."

Dr. Kristy Ward, head coach for the women's team, agreed.

"I think it's important to understand the importance of reading at an early age," she said, adding that reading can become a way of life for students when it is enjoyable and natural. "It is so important. You have to read in everything you do - I think it just makes you a better, all-around academic student."

The coaches explained that the school reached out to them about participating.

"I thought it was a great cause to come out for. Reading is just so important, and showing those kids that it's cool to read," Ward said, noting that hearing it from the players might help to cement that.

Principal Chuck Vilardi echoed that sentiment.

"It's going to give our kids some role models to look up to," he said.

Ward explained that the teams give back when they can.

"We definitely love to get back into the community and give back wherever we can," she said. "It was just an enjoyable morning for the girls and we were honored to be a part of it."

Students Aiden Bolado, 13, and Maya Brennan, 11, enjoyed the surprise visit.

"It was fun," Maya said.

Aiden agreed.

"It was pretty interesting," he said. "The points they made about reading were helpful."

The Sanibel School is at 3840 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.

The Sanibel Recreation Center is at 3880 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.

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