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SOLDOTNA, Alaska (AP) — Trent Boots walked straight to the fiction section directly beneath the inflated solar system hanging from the ceiling.
"The Penderwicks at Point Mouette" by Jeanne Birdsall is Boot's favorite book. He's memorized exactly where the series is organized in the Soldotna Elementary School library.
"I've really liked reading," Boots said. "It lets you explore a new place and you don't even need to get an airplane."
Boots said the major reason he started reading so much was so he could ride in a fire truck at the end of the year.
Boots is one of the eight students that won the Reading Counts awards this spring and was rewarded on May 9. Librarian Debbie Adamson introduced the national program at Soldotna Elementary four years ago.
Adamson coordinated with the Soldotna Fire Department who now volunteers rides for the year's winners, to come up with a way to reward the students for reading more.
Rilee Erickson would come into get a new book up to twice a day Adamson said. She would often find herself asking, "Rilee weren't you just here?"
After a student reads a book, she or he will take a Reading Counts quiz. Their name is entered into a drawing for the chance to ride the fire truck each time they pass.
Boots reads red dot books, which is the most advanced reading level, higher than blue and yellow dots. Each book read is also worth a number of points dependent on its level of difficulty.
Josh Pieh received the Principal's Award for having the most points in the school. A tarnished paw-shaped medal hung from his neck, clanging against the circular one he and his fellow winners received.
"My favorite series is 'Ranger's Apprentice,'" Pieh said.
"Mine's between 'The Maze Runner' and 'Ranger's Apprentice,'" Colton Sorhus said.
"Well, should I order them?" Adamson said, and walked over to the desk at the front of the library to write it down.
Adamson said more than 55,000 books have Reading Counts quizzes, so students have many choices outside of the school. The second and third grade students now have 100 percent involvement in the program.
The program doesn't only help students improve their reading skills, but writing as well, which affects other areas of study, Adamson said.
"It helped my writing and spelling," Boots said. "I read the words and they get caught in my brain and I can spell more."
Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, handed medals to each of the students. Misty Gardiner said her favorite book "Stay out of the Basement" was part of the "Goosebumps" series by R.L. Stine.
Gardiner said her favorite books had big plot twists and surprises. She said she was taken aback but excited she won.
Adamson said the program is set up so even slower readers have the same chance as faster ones. Each teacher develops unique plans for each individual student.
"It brings such meaning to life to see the students become fabulous members of society and such fabulous adults," Adamson said. She had also prepared a pizza lunch for the students in the library.
Sitting around a child-sized round table between shelves filled with books, Micciche asked the winners how they would be spending their summer.
Among the answers were fishing and reading.
Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com
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