Students motivated to read

Published 3:51 pm Monday, June 14, 2010

The National Endowment of the Arts’ “The Big Read” kicked off on Feb. 8, but Calera Middle School fourthgraders got a jump start on reading through the MORE (Motivators Of Reading Enrichment) program last October.

Implemented by Better Basics, a nonprofit United Way agency, MORE is a supplemental classroom reading program that allows students to read for pleasure and receive rewards. This year, nearly 100 classrooms in 31 Birmingham-area schools participated.

Each classroom receives a library of 55 books consisting of three categories: humor, mystery and biography. After reading a book, students answer a 10-question book report. Volunteers visit the classrooms weekly, pick up the reports and issues free books and prizes to the students for the books they read.

“Many of the children we serve don’t have the opportunity to read for pleasure because there are no books in the home,” said Scottie Vickery, director of enrichment programs with Better Basics. “This program allows them to start, or add to, their own home libraries so they can develop confidence as readers and ultimately improve in their test scores.”

Six fourth-grade classes read a total of 1,190 books during the 20-week program. Leslie Blankenship’s class read the most with 322. Her class enjoyed a pizza party for their hard work.

Tyler Millin was top reader for the school. An essay contest in which students write how they have benefited from the program was awarded to Daniel Waid of Ms. Blankenship’s class.

“I like the MORE program because they took their love and care to get the books and make us read them,” Waid wrote.

Top readers by class were: Blankenship – William Bradley (26); Coppock – Emily Armstrong (29); L’Hoste -Ashlyn Hamm, Jordan White and Kimberly Doss (13); Scott – Tyler Millin (36); and White – Lithzi Canales (35).

A luncheon at Birmingham Botanical Gardens was held in April to recognize each school’s top reader and essay winner. Those students and their parents, school administration and classroom volunteers were treated to a delicious lunch and great entertainment.

As a volunteer, I witnessed the positive impact of the program. Students clapped and said “Good job!” as fellow classmates received rewards. The biography books made history more interesting and easier to understand. Reading and writing skills showed marked improvement throughout the course of the program.

Better Basics accepts donations on their website,

Mollie Brown can be reached at