Guilford County Schools students read for more than 3.1 million minutes this summer as part of the school system’s Summer Reading Challenge.

The Summer Reading Challenge was started to keep students’ minds sharp over the summer and avoid what’s called the “summer slide” – information falling out of the heads of students between taking state competency tests and showing up for the next school year.

Davell Moore, a third-grade student at Shadybrook Elementary School in High Point, was the top reader in 2018. Moore read for 17,000 minutes over the summer. That’s 283 hours.

For his effort, Moore won a $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a set of new books.

Guilford County Schools sends their students home over the summer with log sheets to record what they read, and for how long, each day. The schools asked students to read at least 30 minutes a day for 20 days each month of the summer break. The summer break, despite repeated efforts by the Guilford County Board of Education and various education lobbyists to eliminate it, is about two-and-a-half months long. That made the challenge to read for 25 hours, or 1,500 minutes. Moore read more than 10 times that much.

Guilford County Schools in a Thursday, Oct. 4 press release stated, or understated, “Improving literacy is one of the district’s Strategic Plan goals.”

The Guilford County Schools strategic plan is a set of goals the school system wants met and programs it wants implemented. Some of the programs are never created, others get started but fail. But improving reading ability is a commonsense goal of the plan. Not being able to read is the root of many students’ academic problems. There is little sense in trying to teach a student history or chemistry if they can’t read.

Studies show that lower-income students show up for first grade with smaller vocabularies and poorer reading abilities than other students, and that they lose more of what they have learned during the summer slide.

The school board has struggled with literacy for years, approving a series of expensive reading programs that board members said produced few results. The voluntary reading program is a different way of tackling the problem.

Kids who read at least 900 minutes won gift certificates to the Maize Adventure or Spookywoods attractions at Kersey Valley and at Wendy’s restaurants.