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Thunder gets kids moving on reading

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Putnam Heights Elementary students show the books they picked out inside the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, 9-11-2014.  mh
  • Putnam Heights Elementary students show the books they picked out inside the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, 9-11-2014. mh

Can you hear that? Stop what you are doing and listen. It’s not thunder in the distance but a burgeoning silence in the homes of many Oklahoma elementary school students. The induced silence is a result of an urge to read thanks in part to the Thunder Reading Challenge, a program designed to encourage reading.

The Oklahoma City Thunder has again invited teachers of kindergarten through third grade statewide to participate in the program that hopes to foster good reading habits as well as a love of reading.

“We have to do whatever we can to get our parents involved and reading with their children,” Tiffany Olvera said.

Rookie Thunder forward, Mitch McGary, helps Putnam Heights Elementary students pick out books inside the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, 9-11-2014.  mh
  • Rookie Thunder forward, Mitch McGary, helps Putnam Heights Elementary students pick out books inside the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, 9-11-2014. mh

Olvera teaches first grade at Heronville Elementary School and has participated in the Thunder challenge for about four years.

The Thunder Reading Challenge incentivizes reading by providing students with Thunder merchandise and a certificate. Each month, participating teachers tally the number of minutes a student reads, which is signed off by the students’ parents, and then they turn in the winners.

Representatives with the Thunder then turn in gifts to the monthly winners. At the end of the school year, the Thunder awards the top readers for each grade level with a Thunder- autographed item and a plaque. The top overall winner also receives a Rumble assembly for the school, according to a Thunder press release.

Brian Muller teaches second grade at Parkview Elementary in the Mid-Del district and started the Thunder challenge last year and was so impressed with the results that he got the entire grade level at Parkview involved this year.

“The program really sparked the fire of reading in most of my kids. Their parents were coming in and calling me, telling me how excited their child was about reading and how they couldn’t wait to see if they would win the challenge for that month. Last year, my class alone had over 30,000 minutes read from November to April,” he said.

The Thunder Reading Challenge is in its sixth year, and during last year’s challenge, approximately 20,000 Oklahoma students logged more than 200,000 hours of reading — the equivalent of more than 9,000 days of reading, according to the Thunder. More than 80,000 students have participated in the program since its inception.

Last year, the challenge saw just shy of 900 teachers participating, and this year, there are already more than 1,000 signed up. There are teachers now participating from more than 90 school districts that have never taken part in the reading challenge.

“The best part is that we’re able to take the excitement kids have for the Thunder and channel it into a love for reading,” Christine Berney, director of community relations for the Thunder, said in a statement to Oklahoma Gazette.

Sept. 8 was International Literacy Day, the official start date of this year’s Thunder Reading Challenge. Thirty- two million (14 percent) adults in the United States cannot read, according to the Department of Education and the National Institute for Literacy. In Oklahoma, 12 percent of the population lacks basic prose literacy skills, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Print headline:

Thunder reads: Oklahoma City Thunder players donate time and enthusiasm to help Oklahoma children develop a love of reading.

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