• Principal Frank Arvizzigno entertains students at Greece’s St. Lawrence School as librarian Jeannine Fraser (left) and physical education teacher Breanne Toscano direct the placement of colorful duct tape to hold him to the wall Dec. 17.
    Principal Frank Arvizzigno entertains students at Greece’s St. Lawrence School as librarian Jeannine Fraser (left) and physical education teacher Breanne Toscano direct the placement of colorful duct tape to hold him to the wall Dec. 17.

Schools get kids stuck on reading

By Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    01.30.2015


GREECE -- Students at St. Lawrence School are stuck on reading, and as a result, their principal recently found himself stuck to a wall -- literally.

Principal Frank Arvizzigno allowed students and faculty to duct tape him to a wall in the school's gymnasium on Dec. 17. Arvizzigno's predicament was the centerpiece of the celebration held that day to commemorate the school's first-place finish in the Diocese of Rochester's Fall 2014 Reading Challenge.

Arvizzigno decided at the outset of the challenge that he wanted to do something special to motivate the students to read as much as they possibly could, so he readily agreed when one of the teachers suggested he let himself be duct taped to a wall if the school won the challenge.

St. Lawrence students responded to the challenge with gusto, reading an average of 393 minutes per student during the challenge period of Oct. 20-31, Arvizzigno said. The prospect of seeing their principal in a sticky situation proved to be quite motivating, noted Meg Henning, the school's educational technology coordinator.

Courier photo by Sam Oldenburg

Associate Superintendent of Catholic Schools Jona Wright reads Mooseltoe to St. Lawrence School students Dec. 17 during a celebration of the Greece school’s victory in the Diocese of Rochester’s Fall 2014 Reading Challenge.

"The kids have been counting down, not until Christmas, ... but just until we duct tape the principal to the wall," she told the Catholic Courier.

When Jona Wright, associate superintendent of diocesan schools, presented the trophy to Arvizzigno on Dec. 17, he hoisted it high above his head with a triumphant shout, which was echoed by the students' thunderous applause and excited shrieks. Arvizzigno then left the gym to trade his suit for a painter's coverall while the students readied the rolls of brightly colored duct tape they'd brought from home. Upon his return Arvizzigno stood on a stool against the wall as the students took turns securing him to the wall with long strips of tape.

Once the last piece of tape was put in place Arvizzigno again held the Reading Challenge trophy aloft as Anthony Cook, superintendent of diocesan schools, removed the stool and Arvizzigno remained firmly fastened to the wall, much to the students' enjoyment.

The students got a kick out of taping their principal, but they're voracious readers even when goofy gimmicks aren't involved, Arvizzigno said, noting that as of Dec. 17, St. Lawrence ranked 14th among the elementary schools participating in Scholastic's Read 100,000 national challenge. Students are required to read for at least 20 minutes each day, he said, and it's impossible to overstate the importance of reading.

"The more they read, the stronger they'll be in every subject," Arvizzigno said.

"There's so much research showing the more kids read, the more their vocabulary and knowledge increase," Wright agreed. "As writers, too, it gives them model texts to pull ideas from and examples of how to express themselves."

Students at Immaculate Conception School in Ithaca recently utilized those skills when they authored a book that was published and sold locally, said Principal Donald Mills. The faculty at the school, which won first place in the 2013 Fall Reading Challenge, incorporates reading into everything from gimmicky challenges to daily events like the school's Morning Prayer, he said. The teachers strive to instill a love of reading even in children who are too young to read to themselves, said preschool teacher Jamie Fowler.

"I am of the firm belief that if you start to enjoy reading when you are young, you will enjoy it for the rest of your life and it will help you. It will help you in school, it will help you in your future career. No matter what it is you like to do or want to do, reading will help," Fowler said.

Fowler reads a different book to her students each day and tries to keep a wide variety of books in her classroom library to appeal to her students' interests. Christine Pohorence, librarian at St. Mary School in Canandaigua, helps her students expand their reading interests by encouraging them to participate in the 3 Apples Book Award program. Through this program, students at schools in New York state nominate their favorite books in the fall. The 15 most popular titles in each of three age groups are placed on a ballot, and students who read at least three of the nominated books are eligible to vote for their favorites. The winning books are announced in May.

"I do believe that the program does encourage them to try something different from their normal reading areas," Pohorence said. "When the list comes out of the nominees they have a guide to use in choosing their next read. Many times it's a book they would never have thought of themselves, and it helps them to know that kids their own age chose and read this book, thereby helping them believe that it would interest them too."

Copyright © 2015 Catholic Courier, Inc. All rights reserved. Linking is encouraged, but republishing or redistributing, including by framing or similar means, without the publisher's prior written permission is prohibited.

Sign up for our FREE weekly e-newsletters!

Choose from news (Monday), leisure (Thursday) or worship (Saturday) — or get all three!