Reading Rocks–and $$ Rolls into Wilton Ed. Foundation

The Wilton Education Foundation (WEF) has kicked off its third annual “Reading Rocks!” program. The fun, non-competitive read-a-thon fundraiser is an initiative to encourage children to enjoy reading, while raising money for WEF in the process.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit Wilton public schools.

To participate, students  in Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill schools choose a reading goal to accomplish at home which  is above and beyond homework related reading. Each student can choose something fun and attainable given his or her reading skills–students can read independently, be read to by someone else, flip through a picture book, or even read with someone on the phone or via Skype.

“Anything goes that helps the student celebrate reading and creativity is encouraged,” said Julie Steckel, WEF board member and program chair.

Students then secure pledges and donations from family and friends in support of their reading goals.

Last year 1,100 students participated in “Reading Rocks!” and WEF is hoping that this year, every student participates and celebrates the program. “I received feedback from parents saying they were thrilled that the program was so embracing to every type of learner,” Steckel said. “This year, the hope is that every student at Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill will participate.”

Now that the event is scheduled yearly, the students anticipate the program and are enthusiastic participants. They make the connection that their reading can help impact their schools directly, and they become motivated to help out this way.

When Steckel’s third grader was asked, “What makes you proud about Reading Rocks?” she responded, “Reading Rocks makes people feel happy because it makes everyone feel good no matter if you like to read or not and because we have this great technology to use in school and we helped get it!”

This is the third year for “Reading Rocks!” The first two years raised more than $75,000 in combined total. Funds raised by WEF from “Reading Rocks!” and other programs helped the foundation to donate approximately $100,000 to Wilton schools this year, including:

  • $45,000 to purchase SMARTBoards and mounted projectors, resulting in 100-percent deployment of SMARTBoard technology in all core academic areas in all Wilton Public Schools
  • $23,000 to support the iPad Institute, which will offer training to staff for grades Pre K-12
  • $20,000 invested in faculty development through the Summer Institute
  • $5,000 to support enrichment programs for the performing arts.
  • $4,000 allocated for the I-STEM program.

Two elements provide added inducements to encourage student participation in the program. On Wednesday, Jan. 22, the day final pledge forms and donations are due back to school, the students celebrate “Reading Rocks!” by dressing like a rock star. “I was in the schools for Dress Like a Rock Star Day and it was very moving to hear students proudly stating, ‘Reading Rocks!’ What a great message,” Steckel said. In addition, students earn chances to win an iPad Mini or a Kindle E-reader based on how much they read. Teachers are also eligible to win gift cards to help them purchase items for their classrooms.

Organizers said that the “Reading Rocks!” program is not competitive in nature, nor is there any kind of “per book” or “per minute” pressure from the pledges. “Our goal is to get children excited and engaged in reading by extending learning beyond the classroom in a fun way, while contributing to their schools at the same time,” Steckel said. “Students also feel empowered–they realize they can make a difference.”

The Wilton Education Foundation is gratfeul to the Stroup family for sponsoring the program.  “We passionately believe that reading, writing and speaking well are crucial life skills,” said Chris Stroup. “We are pleased to have the privilege of sponsoring ‘Reading Rocks!’ as we continue to be impressed with the support WEF provides the children and educators of Wilton.”

For questions about the program, contact Julie Steckel at JJSteckel@gmail.com or visit the WEF website at www.WiltonEducationFoundation.org.