Literacy initiative at Buckhannon-Upshur High School helps students read to lead

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Buckhannon Pizza Hut supports Buckhannon-Upshur High School reading and literacy, as well as other schools, sports teams and clubs in the area. Pictured with their banner are employees Lee Swisher and Sheri Castellani.
Buckhannon Pizza Hut supports Buckhannon-Upshur High School reading and literacy, as well as other schools, sports teams and clubs in the area. Pictured with their banner are employees Lee Swisher and Sheri Castellani.

TENNERTON – Good reading skills are vital to the success of all students, and at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, librarian Angie Westfall is helping ensure students are reading for both learning and pleasure.

Westfall started a new initiative this year and with the help of some area businesses, is making sure students are not only reading books, but also understanding what they are reading.

Westfall said as part of her responsibilities as a librarian and media specialist at B-UHS, she is always looking for ways to promote literacy.

“I kept seeing a pop-up on my computer for the ‘Book It’ program,” Westfall said. “I remember doing that as a child. I asked myself why we couldn’t do that as well.”

After doing some checking, Westfall said she learned that students in high school are too old for the ‘Book It’ program. But she didn’t give up and followed through to see what could be done to reward students for reading.

“I talked to Lisa Cook, marketing director with McDonald’s, and asked if they could help promote reading in the school by providing some food coupons. She said yes and she brought me some coupons,” Westfall said.

Westfall said when B-UHS students read a book, they give her a summary of the book.

“We chit chat about the book, and I provide the students with a McDonald’s coupon for food,” Westfall said. “It has to be used within the month and is good for either a cheeseburger or a four-piece chicken nugget, Go-gurt or apples and their choice of milk. It is a complete meal.”

But the program doesn’t stop there. Westfall said Pizza Hut was also interested in helping the youth in the area and offered to provide coupons to the top 10 readers at B-UHS each quarter.

“Buckhannon Pizza Hut’s new general manager, Brandi Miller, offered to provide prizes for the top 10 readers each quarter,” Westfall said. “The top 10 readers each quarter also have their name on the television downstairs at the school. There is also a list for the teachers who read the most per quarter, but only the students are eligible for the Pizza Hut reward cards.”

Students making the top 10 list at Buckhannon-Upshur High School for this quarter include Cam Tharpe, Cosmo Plivelich, Cortney Dowling, Alexandria Fassett, Peyton Gerwig, Jasmine Cornelius, Mary Fisher, Zelphia Johnson, Maya Rowan and Shaleigh Bleigh. Each received a personal pan pizza from Buckhannon Pizza Hut.

B-UHS ninth-grader Shaleigh Bleigh said she loves to read.

“I like to read books about love and war,” Shaleigh said. “I am happy to receive these certificates.

Zelphia Johnson is in 10th grade, and she said she enjoys ghost stories.

“I like ghost stories and think the food certificates are awesome,” she said. “Reading is actually pretty fun.”

Alexandria Fassett is in ninth grade at B-UHS.

“This year I read a lot of books,” Alexandria said. “I get a new book each time I come into the library. This award is very exciting.”

Westfall congratulated the readers for not only feeding their bellies, but for feeding their imaginations.

“I want the students to read and enjoy what they are reading,” Westfall said. “I want them to enjoy it and to be lifelong readers and learners. This program also incorporates writing as well as reading along with communication. All B-UHS students are eligible, and the process begins by the students coming to me to check out books and letting me know they want to participate in the program.”

She said the B-UHS Library offers a plethora of books including some of the new titles that are popular with high school students such as the Manga Series, graphic novels and the murder, mystery, mayhem series.

B-UHS Principal Eddie Vincent said Westfall does a lot of creative, behind-the-scenes work at the school to enhance student learning and success.

“One of the things she is doing is the literacy reading initiative,” Vincent said. “She does a lot to help students and other teachers out of the library and media center. I think this is another one of those things that she brings to our school to help people. It’s a good thing. She has some of our students reading books who normally would not have done that.”

Miller, from Buckhannon Pizza Hut, said Pizza Hut is thrilled to support literacy programs, students and teachers.

“For years, Pizza Hut has been involved in the Book It Program, rewarding children for their reading accomplishments,” Miller said. “We encourage teachers and schools to contact us with ideas or initiatives that we can help with.”

Miller said Buckhannon Pizza Hut supports not only B-UHS, but also lends a hand to support local sports teams, clubs and other community groups.

“We hope the community will join us in supporting these groups and we appreciate any opportunity to continue our efforts,” Miller said, adding that groups seeking assistance can contact her by calling 304-472-0335.