Student teacher Libby Luke reads "The Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." to students in Lindsay Garner's first grade class. Afterwards, Luke answered numerous questions from students, who later wrote about what they had learned about the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Luke is a senior at Athens State University in Alabama.
Student teacher Libby Luke reads "The Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." to students in Lindsay Garner's first grade class. Afterwards, Luke answered numerous questions from students, who later wrote about what they had learned about the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Luke is a senior at Athens State University in Alabama.
An exciting new initiative, which encourages students to read not only books, but newspapers, magazines and other printed material, is now under way in the Neshoba County Schools.

Spearheaded by the superintendent, Read 20 Rockets challenges students to read 20 minutes at home each evening for enjoyment.

An avid reader, Dr. Lundy Brantley cited numerous statistics on reading, noting that a student who reads 20 minutes a day would be exposed to 1.8 million words per year and score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests.

“Read 20 Rockets is not a program. It is a habit or process to encourage kids to read not just books but periodicals, newspapers and magazines. Anything that is in print,” Dr. Brantley said.

“We want students to read to enjoy and read to learn.”

Dr. Brantley noted the importance of reading, pointing out that today’s technical and military field manuals even require college level reading.

“You have to read and comprehend on college level for many jobs that don’t require a degree,” he said.

Read 20 Rockets stemmed from a brainstorming session Brantley had with principals and librarians last semester.

He and administrators realize it will take time to get the reading initiative off the ground but interest has already been shown.

Teachers are encouraged to quiz their students each day about what they read the previous night.

“If they can effectively articulate what they read, then their name will be entered in a drawing for a book, or a magazine or newspaper subscription. We have plenty of people who will to donate $25 for a book or subscription,” Brantley said.

Prizes will be awarded twice a month.

To promote Read 20 Rockets, librarians, teachers and others will appear on the school district’s Facebook page in “book trailers,” this semester, Brantley said. 

“We may have two adults discussing a book for a couple of minutes on video,” he said. 

One newly released book that has excited Brantley is a coming-of-age memoir by Tara Westover entitled Educated.

Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, Westover was 17 when she first entered a classroom. She graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008. She later earned a PhD in history from Cambridge University.

Brantley said Westover’s story should inspire all students as well as encourage them to realize that they, too, can “make it” despite any challenges they may face.

‘“We just hope to start a conversation about reading and bring awareness of the benefits from a student enjoying reading at night,” Brantley said. “Twenty minutes is not really that long. Over time, we hope it becomes a growth mindset that the more you read the more you grow.”