HILL 'N DALE — Eastside Elementary School reading coach Michelle Barnes assigned a project to her third- and fourth-graders, and they ran with it.
"We discussed my expectations," Barnes said, "but never did I dream that they would exceed my expectations."
The assignment sounded simple enough.
"They had to read a book of their choice and display it as creatively as they could," Barnes said.
What happened, she suggested, was not just a remarkable show of displays, but a turning point at the school.
"We have changed the climate of Eastside," she said. "Not only were the children excited to do these projects, the parents were as well."
Plus there were going to be prizes.
They called it a book fair. The children had to read a book and report on it with a display, a diorama or a PowerPoint presentation. The report had to include the book's title, author, the main characters, the author's purpose, the setting, the conflict solution and a summary.
When fourth-grader Madison Wooldridge, 10, heard the assignment, she remembers saying, "Yay!" Madison read The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas and created a diorama.
Madison's classmate, Dianna Wright, 9, read the same book and also made a diorama.
"I was excited because it's the first project I had that was going to be judged," she said.
The big prize, one each for third and fourth grades, was a Kindle Reader, donated by Spring Hill United Church of Christ, an Eastside community partner.
"I didn't want Kindle Fires," said Title I parent facilitator Beth Zacharias. "I didn't want them playing Angry Birds."
The two second-place prizes, provided by the Eastside Elementary PTA, were $25 Barnes and Noble gift cards. Third-place awards were literary baskets containing reading and writing materials prepared by PTA members.
Fourth-grader Emma Garrett, 10, read Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson. It is part of a series, and she had all the books in her display. She likes the series — she was reading the fourth book, Power Play, at the time of the book fair — because, she said, "There's a lot of mysterious stuff. This book series is a great book series."
When fourth-grader Holly Roberts, 9, got the assignment, she said, "I was really excited because I got to be creative."
She read Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.
"I think it's important to read, because it fills your knowledge and information to use in life," said Holly, who enjoys fantasy books.
Fourth-grader Julia Jestes, 10, read The Puppy Place Where Every Puppy Finds a Home by Ellen Miles. Julia reads a lot, about a book a week, and enjoys animal stories.
"I was kind of excited for doing (the book fair) because I like writing and I like doing projects on books I read," she said.
The winners were:
Fourth grade: first place, Katrina Hopson-Bailey; second place, Holly Roberts; third place, Derek Portuondo.
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Third grade: first place, Bree-Ann Henagan; second place, Eternity Hopson; third place, Emma Chambers.