Members of the Millionaire's Club. Photo courtesy of GESD.
Last week, the Glendale Elementary School District‘s Discovery Elementary School welcomed 27 new members to the prestigious Millionaires Club, where the criteria are not about dollars earned, but words absorbed.
Created by library clerk Michele Beney, the club issues a challenge to students and staff at the school: Read as many books as it takes to reach the mark of one million words or more.
The new members, along with the top five readers from every grade, were rewarded with an ice cream party put on by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.
This year, 267 students and a few staff members accepted the challenge. Beney tallied their progress on a board in the school library. With the help of websites and some counting on her own, Beney totaled up the word counts of every book in the school library. The students and staff had until May 25, the last day of school, to break the one million-word mark. One student was admitted to the club way back in November!
Open to all ages—two second-graders were recently inducted—the challenge is a school-wide endeavor. Because lower-level books often have small word counts, Beney instituted an alternate counting system for grades K-3. “I didn’t want anyone to be discouraged, she said.
Since the October founding of the Millionaires Club, Discovery Elementary has seen a boost in library attendance, even among students whose primary interest beforehand was not reading.
“It does take extra time,” Beney says, “but if I can get one student to read more then it’s worth it.”
With luck, Beney hopes, the club’s success will translate into more books for the library. Tight education budgets make the purchasing of new books difficult, so the school is taking donated books, which Beney can exchange with local bookstores to secure what the library needs. The program is also giving the clerk an idea of what students’ favorites are. So far the leaders are the Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, as well as the creepy books of R.L. Stine.
“I’m enjoying seeing what they’re reading,” says Benney. “I’m getting to know what they enjoy and like, and that gives me plenty of ideas on what new books, if any, I can order.” – Robert T. Balint