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Pupils read books, spend their points on cool stuff

If only it worked this way for the rest of us. Imagine reading books, receiving points for doing do, and then being able to buy really cool stuff with those points.

That's how it worked for Rock Crusher Elementary School third- through fifth-graders just before the holiday break. Funded by the School Advisory Enhancement Council, a store was set up in a small room on campus, and readers came in to spend their points.

They earned the points in the popular Accelerated Reader program, which encourages children to read by testing them for comprehension on a computer as soon as possible after they finish a book. Points are awarded according to the number of questions answered correctly and the book's level of difficulty.

The students had the option of spending or saving. The store will be open again at the end of the school year; by saving, students may be able to afford more pricey items. Another point to consider is that bicycles will be available at the year-end sale.

Fifth-grader Kathleen Grady, 10, chose to spend many of her points. But, as a top reader, she had a lot to spend. At the cutoff date she had 293.5 points, but said it was up to 302.5 by the time of the shopping spree.

"I live to read," Kathleen said. "I think that it's very fun, and I think it's very educational, and it will probably help with my schooling when I get older."

Kathleen chose a pink bear, a fan and a FunReal toy puppy. "I like animals," she said.

Not all the children had as many points to spend as Kathleen, so there was a wide variety of items and prices. They ranged from items that cost one point _ pencils, notepads, hair ties _ to five points: pens, stamps, bubbles. For 250 points, a shopper could buy remote control cars, a Creepy Crawlers Bug Maker, a LuvCubs hugging bear or a CD player and radio.

Other items available, for various amounts of points: soccer balls, footballs (which sold out), games, dolls, watches, Hula Hoops, croquet sets, T-shirts, caps and wooden snakes, among many other things.

The majority of students, 172, had between 11 and 75 points to spend. Fifth-grader Alex Kazemfar, 11, had 94. He said he was going to spend some and save some.

"It's good," he said of the store. It encourages kids "to actually read."

Alex bought his sister, Tara, a green fan for her birthday.

Sabrina Lambert, 10, took advantage of the situation to get some Christmas shopping done. For her brother, Dallas, she found a miniskateboard with tiny tools; she got her sister, Heather, a cat puzzle.

Third-grade teacher Teresa Jenkins is the store's main buyer. Some of the items, she said, were left over from last year, when the third grade did something similar. When the idea was expanded to include fourth and fifth grades, Jenkins hit the clearance racks.

Jenkins works with Title I reading teacher Pat Mulder on the store.

She explained the rationale behind it: "We are doing this to motivate our students to read more books," Mulder said, "to get more points and get excited about reading."