Love to read: Reading Champions inspire teachers and classrooms

Here’s something you need to read about kids in this community who love to read. 

The quality of readers in the youngest generation around these parts is very strong. And they have teachers and school librarians who care, nurture and encourage their success. 

Starting back in March, Elkhart Public Library started recognizing these Reading Champions. The Friends of EPL joined in, granting $250 for books to stock each selected student’s classroom library – a legacy teachers can enjoy for years to come. 

The regret after Year 1 of Reading Champs is … we only could recognize 12 of the dozens of local students recommended by their schools. 

So, in our social media posts, we couldn’t tell you all the great stories. So here are just a few more that will fill you with joy. 

And the nominees are …

Caleb Hipsher of Eastwood Elementary School is a “database of information” because he retains so much of what he reads, according to teacher Anne Bell. “He is my class fact checker. … He has a broad array of interests and shares his love of learning with others.” Caleb wants to be a writer and film director. 

Avenleigh Mendoza Herrera of Ox Bow Elementary is “such an avid reader and she truly loves it,” says her teacher, Kate Helm. “… She reads with such enthusiasm and her love of reading is contagious. If you ever need a good laugh, just have Avenleigh read you her favorite Mo Willems book!” 

So we asked her.  

Cheers from teachers

At Concord South Side Elementary, third-grade teacher Ashley Hage could not hide her enthusiasm for her amazing collection of readers. Her colleague, Heidi Snyder, described herself as “proud and thankful” to have such wonderful students to nominate. Corry Wichman and Jessica Moreno of Monger Elementary also shared great stories of so many kids who love to read. 

Concord High School librarian April Zehr submitted several nominations for students who worked incredibly hard to stay active in their book clubs, even through the pandemic.  

As fellow librarians, we especially enjoyed and appreciated April’s take on Concord student Olivia Hays. “This school year, I’ve learned about the sticky tabs she uses for marking book pages and the coordinating key for what each color means. These tabs are used because she wants to make personal notes but doesn’t like to make the marks directly on each book,” April says. “It’s never a dull moment when you discuss books with Olivia. I’m so honored to see her in the library each week and to hear her reading joy!” 

Growing achievements

Easton Swann at Eastwood Elementary “recorded 1,356 minutes of at-home reading … and mirrored what the top readers in almost every grade submitted. That’s pretty amazing for a kindergarten student,” says teacher Kim Haas. Easton even helps lead the class in predicting what happens next in stories and discussions about how characters could have done things differently. 

Maizee Lands at Woodland Elementary in Elkhart struggled at first with her reading. Teacher Amanda Balk says Maizee “now is getting better and her friends and family are noticing a difference. … (W)e are happy the growth she’s shown us this year. We want to show her that her hard work is being recognized and encourage her to continue doing such a great job.” 

Odalis Perez of Mary Beck Elementary caught the attention of teacher Mackenzie Gamble. “At the beginning of the year, Odalis was a struggling reader. Odalis never gave up and tirelessly worked on her reading skills every single day. Over time she developed a love for reading. I have witnessed firsthand the joy that lights up Odalis face when she learns new words or finishes a whole book. Her enthusiasm for reading is infectious, and it has had a ripple effect in the classroom, inspiring others to dive into books with the same excitement!” 

Eliza Yakym of Elkhart Christian Academy started the year reading only her assignments. “She has grown to love the characters in the books she is reading,” says teacher Sallyann Yakym. “… She has truly found that reading is an adventure that takes you on magical journeys.”  

Teacher Michael Swanson nominated Jade Moreno Sanchez of Monger Elementary. “Jade is a second grade student who consistently chooses to read challenging books,” he says. “She picks many chapter books and can focus for long periods of time. Her comprehension is excellent and she sets a wonderful example for others.” 

And, really, the list goes on. We will look forward to sharing the stories of more students who love to read when Reading Champions returns in the 2024-25 school year.