Students ready to Read to the Final Four

Schools from around metro Atlanta participated in Read to the Final Four—a competition put on by the NCAA, Final Four and the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee between third grade classes in different elementary schools that rewards the schools with the highest average minutes read—and three of the schools that made the final 68-school bracket are from DeKalb County.

Students at Livsey Elementary, Indian Creek Elementary and Wynbrooke Elementary all heard their schools’ names called at the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee’s selection show at B C Haynie Elementary School in Morrow.

“They are so excited,” said Shawna Pickett principal of Livsey Elementary School. “[The third-grade classes] kind of already knew that they’d make it, because they check daily because they’re obsessed with seeing where we are in the rankings. The students were elated, and they cheered.”

Schools that participated in Read to the Final Four use a digital literacy platform that provides access to thousands of books and tracks time spent reading. The program is called MyON by Renaissance, and schools such as Livsey will have access to the platform until June.

According to Pickett, the online platform doesn’t just provide reading material. It also comes with dictionaries and note taking capabilities, as well as allowing students to share and recommend books, and allows teachers to give quizzes.

“When I ask the students what their favorite part about [the MyON platform] is, the number one thing is the variety of books it offers,” said Livsey. “Their favorites are the scary and gross books, of course.”

The Final Four trophy along with Read to the Final Four memorabilia.

The platform provides options for novels and gives students access to books relevant to the classes they take at school. Pickett said math and science teachers are using some of the things the platform offers, and the students can access the material from school or home.

While the competition is fun, the most important thing, according to Pickett, is to build good reading habits.

“[Teachers and administration] are told that—and we’ve read research that shows— if a student isn’t able to read by third grade, the percentage level for them being able to graduate high school drops so much. So, we’ve really put an emphasis on that.”

At the selection show, the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee said that third grade is when students typically begin to change their reading patterns from learn-to-read to read-to-learn.

According to Pickett, the platform is helping students get used to reading for longer periods of time and lets teachers track progress and issue progress reports. The wide variety of topics and subjects that the platform offers helps students enjoy what they’re reading, and that is important when it comes to creating positive reading habits, according to Pickett.

“We see that students begin to develop more and kind of alter into strong readers in third grade,” Pickett said. “We want to make sure we give them every opportunity to succeed.”

Livsey is encouraging reading, but the school is also competing for a chance to win the Read to the Final Four.

Carl Adkins, Grant Hill, Morcease J. Beasley and Matthew White prepare for the bracket reveal at the Read to the Final Four selection show. Photos by Jay Phillips.

“I’ve been pleased with the opportunity and excited,” Pickett said. “I was excited before, but to be in the competition has really amped the kids up.”

The schools that advance to the bracket’s Final Four will be honored before the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta April 4. With the way the brackets are set up, all three DeKalb County schools could advance to the Final Four, and Pickett said that is exactly what her students are hoping happens.

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