Ridgefield’s Ridgebury Elementary School students revel in reading and writing with readathon

RIDGEFIELD — The written word is experiencing a joy-filled resurgence at Ridgebury Elementary School thanks to several initiatives.

For the second year in a row, Ridgebury got its students excited about language arts through The Rex Readathon, named after the school’s canine mascot.

Additionally, Lisa Figaro, the fundraising president for the Ridgebury PTA, is producing a literary magazine called “The Rex Reader.” Her team has been collecting submissions over the past few weeks. She hopes the product will come together over the next month.

“This school paper is intended to showcase students’ work while encouraging them to further develop their writing skills,” she said.

Children have been encouraged to submit a range of work, including art, poems and more. The organizers provided some prompts and theme suggestions to get them started.

“We want our students to be confident that they can transform their thoughts and ideas into literary works of art,” Figaro said.

The theme of this year’s Readathon was the Olympics. Figaro adopted the program for RES after seeing the success of similar initiatives at her school district in Westchester County.

“I wanted, personally, for my own kids to read more, so I wanted to come up with an exciting program to motivate them,” she said. “To me, reading is so important.”

While students got excited about turning in their reading logs, teachers used the opportunity to augment their instruction. The initiative also served as a fundraiser on behalf of the school.

“It is a win-win,” Ridgebury Principal Jamie Palladino said. “While we want kids to be excited to read all the time, we use this Readathon as our opportunity to re-spark the flame of reading ... while supporting the PTA.”

The results are evident, several parents concurred.

“My youngest is in fifth grade and this is ... the best thing ever,” PTA parent Cathy Davis said.

The range of activities to encourage student reading have also proven effective, she added, noting challenges to read a book in a tree, under the table or read aloud to one another.

Davis said the Readathon teaches children that reading doesn’t have to just include the books they’re assigned in school, but a wide range of things from graphic novels to recipes.

Parent Lisa Mariakakis found that her two children, who participated last year, couldn’t wait to complete those literary challenges again.

“They both had books tucked away, waiting for March to begin to crack them open,” she said. “It gave them incentive ... while earning the school additional funds that would benefit the students.”

Parent Megha Shah has watched her two children, who were already avid readers, find new ways to enjoy getting lost in a book.

“It has encouraged them to venture out of their comfort zone of just reading books to reading magazines, newspapers, manuals, comic strips and, I will even dare to say, an old-fashioned dictionary that used to be mine when I was a kid,” she said. The program’s volunteers “obviously care about the children in their community. They have improved the lives and future of my children and RES as a whole. I am grateful.”