Third-graders at W. Verne McKinney Elementary School were quick to respond when coaxed by Principal Ricardo LeBlanc-Esparza to describe what it takes to be a high achiever.

“Success comes through hard work,” a group of students exclaimed in unison.

“We say it every single day,” LeBlanc-Esparza said, speaking to a group of community members who gathered in the school library HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - W. Verne McKinney Elementary School principal Ricardo LeBlanc-Esparza and Hillsboro School District Superintendent Mike Scott snip a  ceremonial ribbon to officially open the schools new Reading Oasis.

The students spoke the school creed as they sat on the floor of the new addition to the library, a “Reading Oasis” donated by Scholastic Book Fairs in partnership with Hillsboro Kiwanis.

The reading space includes bookshelves stocked with 1,200 new books, a large rug to sprawl out on, bean bag chairs, a cushioned bench and a CD player with headphones for playing books on CD.

“The library is a place where we can always find a book to take us on a reading adventure,” said Kiwanis member Elizabeth Adams.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday was in large part due to an action Adams took on a whim. During the Kiwanis international convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, in June, Scholastic Book Fairs held a drawing for a Reading Oasis, which was on display intact at the convention. Adams decided to drop in her name with other Kiwanis members. It turned out to be the right decision when she won the drawing.

Normally, Kiwanis clubs and other organizations pay 50 percent of the cost for a Reading Oasis, with Scholastic Book Fairs picking up the other half. However, because of the Kiwanis drawing, Scholastic Book Fairs donated the entire $10,000 worth of books and furniture to the Hillsboro school.

“This allows schools to have an intimate reading center when they wouldn’t necessarily have that advantage,” said Chuck Sherwood of Scholastic Book Fairs, noting only three other Reading Oasis units across the country have been donated in full. “It’s all about reading for fun.”

McKinney was chosen in Hillsboro because of its long association with Kiwanis. Club members come to the school weekly to read with students and improve literacy.

“Reading a book is better than TV,” Kiwanis member Bob Munger told the students. “When you read a book, the picture is in your mind, and the picture is different for every child.”

New books in the Reading Oasis include classics such as “Stuart Little” by E.B. White and modern selections such as “Oggie Cooder, Party Animal” by Sarah Weeks. There is a biography on Abraham Lincoln and picture-story books covering everything from frogs to Duke Ellington.

Books in the school library are cataloged using the Lexile Framework for Reading, which measures how well a student can read and understand a book. Students take short quizzes after reading a book that help determine what other books in the library are within their reading aptitude.

“Beginning readers will get discouraged if they try to read something too hard, and we don’t want advanced readers getting bored by reading something below their reading level,” said school librarian Hugo Johnson. “We want books to be challenging, not boring.”

LeBlanc-Esparza agreed that students need to be proactive about advancing their reading skills. The school principal wants every McKinney student reading at or above grade level, which is why he encourages students to state their goals and aspirations every day.

“I want them to go off with a focus,” LeBlanc-Esparza said. “What is it you want to be? Dream big. I want to empower students to understand it is in their hands.”

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