Clear Creek vice principal says school gets creative to raise literacy levels
by: Jenifer DeWolfe, Julianna Stai, and Kalie Wilkinson read books Friday, March 16, in the gymnasium during the school’s reading marathon. Some students wore pajama pants and slippers to get into the spirit of the event.

As they walk through the halls of Clear Creek Middle School, the students look like they just rolled out of bed.

That's because several of them are wearing pajama pants and slippers to school on the morning of Friday, March 16.

Meanwhile, Paul Pick, vice principal, is notable for wearing a green tie, and says it's to mark St. Patrick's Day, which takes place the next day.

'I'll tell you one thing,' he says. 'I wasn't going to wear pajamas.'

But many Clear Creek students did, as they participated in the school's Read-A-Thon. Donors pledged to give a certain amount of money to support the school's media center and other activities, says John Koch, principal. In exchange, the students agreed to read quietly for about 30 minutes or so. The Read-A-Thon was expected to raise about $5,000, he says.

Koch says he allowed his students to don their nightwear to get them excited about the Read-A-Thon.

'For the kids, letting them do it seems to be a big deal,' he says.

Yet many of the students also seem to need little encouragement to read at the school, located at 219 N.E. 219th St., Gresham. Eighth-graders Emily Kratz, 13; Amy Wooten, 14; and Isaac Yang, 13, are all excited about being able to read for fun at school.

'Sometimes you get lost in another world,' Amy says. 'It seems really fun. You broaden your vocabulary.'

Amy says she chose Libba Bray's 'A Great and Terrible Beauty' for the Read-A-Thon. The book tells the tale of an English girl haunted by premonitions, including one of her mother dying, Amy says. She also barely contains her enthusiasm for the Harry Potter series.

'I love it, I love it, I love it!' Amy says, noting she admires author J.K. Rowling's narrative skills.

'She just makes the books really intense,' Amy says.

During the Read-A-Thon, Emily read 12 pages of 'Stolen Secrets,' by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry. The book is the second in the Red Rocks Mysteries series.

'I like mystery books,' Emily says. 'You always want to read more and see what happens next.'

Isaac says he prefers such fantasy books as 'Peter and the Starcatchers' by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Isaac says the book tells the story of Peter Pan and his orphan friends as they battle pirates. Isaac says 'sometimes real stuff gets boring,' so he likes to escape into the world Peter inhabits.

'He flies,' Isaac says. 'It's about things you don't normally see or do.'

Isaac says he also enjoys reading about dragons and medieval knights.

'Whenever I start reading, I read for, like, hours because I get sucked into books,' he says.

Emily says she likes reading books that feature characters her own age.

'Sometimes, maybe I can connect to them,' she says.

Books also help her develop her imagination, she says.

'Sometimes you can picture the story in your head,' she says. 'It puts pictures in your mind.'

Amy says she favors books like 'The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' because 'there's actually real life experiences in them.' Ann Brashares' best-selling novel 'Traveling Pants' tells the tale of four friends who take turns sharing a pair of thrift-shop jeans as a way of keeping connected when the girls are apart.

'I learn, like, keep your friends close, the ones that are real,' Amy says.

'Kids are looking for pieces of literature they can relate to,' Pick says, adding that young people today have a wide variety of quality literature available to them. The school library contains a wealth of books geared toward the middle school audience, he says.

Even in the age of the Internet and other high-tech gadgets, young people seem to want to read as much, possibly even more, than kids of past generations, he says.

'There's nothing like the feel of the paper and the book,' he says, clutching an imaginary paperback in his hands. 'They don't have to be plugged in. They can read wherever it suits them.'

The Read-A-Thon is part of an ongoing effort to raise the students' literacy levels, he says.

'We are looking at every single thing we can do to improve reading,' he says.

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