MS educators give away football tickets, cash to promote reading

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Changes in education will require Mississippi students to sharpen their reading skills. Under a new state law, third graders must read at grade level or risk being held back. This year, two state football rivals are teaming-up with an education organization to tackle illiteracy. Their game plan involves football tickets and free cash.

The new president of the Mississippi Association of Educators attended an orientation for new teachers in Biloxi Tuesday. Joyce Helmick came to recruit new members and to promote a new statewide reading initiative.

"Our literacy rate in Mississippi has been lower than we want it to be and we want to put more emphasis on that, especially in the lower grades," said Helmick.

Later this week, the MAE, along with Ole Miss and Mississippi State University, will kick-off the "Be a Champion and Read Contest."

"And they said, 'Let's make this competitive. Let's make it fun for the kids and let's give them tickets to the Egg Bowl,'" said Helmick.

The competition is only for Mississippi public school students in grades K-8. Students must read six reading-level appropriate books to enter a drawing. Two winners (an MSU fan and an Ole Miss supporter), along with two of their guests, will score the free game tickets. Plus, they'll get the MVP treatment, like visiting the field during pre-game activities.

"This incentive is good for the students to get them excited. They say I can read six books and maybe win something, and maybe get recognition," said Helmick.

Teachers who participate will also be eligible to win cash prizes. Four will each win $500 for their classroom. Teachers who decorate their rooms to promote the contest will also be eligible to win $250 for their classroom.

The contest comes at a time when schools are facing tougher reading requirements and more rigorous Common Core standards.

"Common Core brings up the reading level, so we thought this initiative would help the students and the parents be more aware about literacy and being more involved in trying to bring that rate up," said Helmick. "For all the students to be involved in the same kind of reading program is very exciting for us."

"Anytime that you can get students excited and engaged about reading, because that's the main thing, we want them to think about themselves as readers. So anything we can get them to do to kind of get hooked on reading is a wonderful thing," said Teresa Williams, Biloxi Schools Literacy Coach.

Information packets on the contest will be sent to all elementary and middle schools across the state. All entries must be submitted by November 8. Winners will be notified on November 18.

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