As a reward for reading more than 750 books, Marianne Lyon’s third-grade class at Ecoff Elementary School enjoyed lunch with a squirrel last week.
Lyon’s class of 24 students won the Richmond Flying Squirrels Go Nuts for Reading contest in Chesterfield County by reading 756 books. As a reward, the students were treated to a pizza lunch with Nutzy, the Flying Squirrels mascot, and Squirrels first baseman Andy D’Alessio.
Reading Specialist Teresa Rogers said the contest involved students keeping track of how many books they read. Any child who read eight books earned a ticket to a Flying Squirrels game, she said, but Lyon’s class just kept going.
“Mrs. Lyon does a good job promoting literacy, which helped them win,” she said.
Lyon, who has been teaching for 31 years and plans to retire this year, said the class didn’t know about the contest until about a month into it. But, the commitment to reading is “normal for us,” she said.
“It’s part of their commitment for homework, it’s part of their responsibility during the day,” she said. The students also participate in the Accelerated Reader program, she said. “The greatest reward is [when] we’re between classes and you see them slip a book out.”
Lyon said it’s gotten harder to get students to read because students are involved in more activities now. Reading “has to be a habit of theirs,” she said.
As the students settled in for lunch last week, D’Alessio fielded questions about why reading was important, how it helped him and whether Nutzy’s “big head” meant the squirrel was smart.
Nutzy mingled with the students, dispensing high-fives and hugs and looking at books. Pieces of paper were distributed, and students collected autographs from D’Alessio and Nutzy.
Chichi Maxwell, 8, Anna Morton, 8, and Julia Baca, 9, said they liked to read.
“I want to be a doctor and doctors need to read,” Chichi said. Anna said reading gives her imagination and helps make her smart. Julia likes reading chapter books, she said.
“They’re interesting and there’s always something in the book that I want to hear,” Julia said.
Before the end of lunch, Nutzy and D’Alessio received a treat of their own: The students sang them three songs about reading.