PUBLISHED: 2:31 PM on Wednesday, March 9, 2005
130,338 minutes of reading
Harborview celebrates beating reading challenge

Photo by Christina Holmgren
  Gary Waid told the traditional story about the birth of the Killer Whale.
They set the goal at an even 120,000. That's how many minutes Harborview students set out to read in the two weeks between Feb. 14 and March 2. At the culminatory celebration on March 4, the count was in, and the school had not only met, but exceeded the goal with a total of 130,338 minutes.

The reading challenge, themed "Feed The Whale With Words," came with a visual reminder that nobody could ignore: A 60-foot, life-size picture of a whale, painted on sheets of paper and pieced together on the gym wall.

"It sums up my idea of the reading challenge," said teacher Steve Byers, coordinator, "everyone had a part of it, and it's beautiful!"

Photo by Christina Holmgren
  Children of All Nations Dance Group started the celebration Friday, March 4, against a backdrop of a life-size whale representing the size of the reading challenge "Feed the Whale With Words.
The challenge was part of an annual national competition supported by MetLife and RIF, Reading Is Fundamental. The competition encourages children to read and brings community members into schools as volunteer readers. Each year, schools across the country select two weeks to participate and organize activities encouraging children to read. In April, RIF will announce two winners in each state, and two national champions. Winners are rewarded with money to purchase books for children.

"The challenge is of great value on two levels: It brings volunteers into the schools, many of whom remain involved long after the two weeks are over, and it inspires children by connecting them with adults who love to read," said Sybil Jackson, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation.

Photo by Christina Holmgren
  Dr Seuss fan and assembly member Randy Wanamaker read parts of "Yertle the Turtle."
The "Feed The Whale With Words" challenge counted over 400 participating Harborview students. Different goals were set for different grades, and being read aloud to counted as well. Activities connected to the challenge included creating the whale for the gym, visiting naturalists talking about whales, whale migration, and a simulation by parent Diane Antaya of whale blubber as a heat insulator.

The total number of reading minutes were computed by math students, and a big, whale-themed celebration was planned to cap it all.

The celebration on Friday, March 4, opened with the Children of All Nations Dance Group doing a welcome dance.

Native story teller Gary Waid told the traditional story of how the killer whale came into existence, and showed the power of storytelling by captivating the audience throughout the fairly long story.

Long time Dr. Seuss fan and Juneau Assembly member Randy Wanamaker, together with Steve Byers, read the beginning of Dr. Seuss' story "Yertle the Turtle," about the prideful turtle king Yertle.

And no matter if they win a national prize or not, Harborview students can count themselves winners for being a group of awesome readers.