Twenty Harding University Partnership elementary students received the millionaire treatment Wednesday morning enjoying Starbucks frappuccinos and a decked-out trolley ride to Chaucer’s, the Central Library, and the County District Office of Education. Each of these students, most all covered in colorful leis, donning funky hats, and carrying goody bags, read at least a million words this school year. One student read as many as four million words.
The Harding Reading Millionaires club, which started two years ago with only four students, has more than quadrupled since, boasting 20 millionaire students in grades 3-6 this year. The club started as an incentive to get students reading more in efforts to close the achievement gap and raise Harding’s test scores, said Harding Principal Veronica Binkley. But “it trickles far beyond academics,” she added, with students also learning to set high goals and reach them. Students who read more frequently are higher achievers than students who don’t read regularly. Reading also increases students fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension — all skills students need to be successful as they matriculate into middle and high school. Some studies suggest reading one million words a year places students in the 90th percentile of standardized test scoring.
Belonging to the Harding Reading Millionaires club has become a form of bragging rights at the school, and students work year round to gain membership. That membership, however, does not renew automatically, and at the beginning of the following school year, students begin anew to try and reach one million words. Of the 20 millionaires this year, six are 3rd graders. One 3rd grader, Yoselin, read 1,500,036 words, she told the Independent. She had to read, “like, half of the books in [her] class” to reach one million words, she said. Her favorites this year were Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. Yoselin told the Independent she’d like to be a millionaire again the following years until she graduates. Another student, 6th grader Desteny, was donning a crown throughout the millionaire celebration. Her favorite book is The Selection, she said. “It’s about a princess competing for her crown.”