- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

PHILOMATH, Ore. (AP) - The reward for Philomath Elementary School’s students who met their goals in the school’s summer reading program was kept secret until last week, when Principal Cindy Golston announced the reward to each class in the school.

“I thought that I was pretty much going to explode because I was so excited,” third-grader Elise Reese said.

“I like popped out of my head,” said Elise’s best friend and fellow third-grader Kaylee Webster.

“I was in music class when Ms. Golston came in and told us, and I just gasped,” second-grader Savannah Adams said.

The reward that the students were so excited about?

A ride on a camel.

The stellar readers enjoyed a camel ride at the school Thursday, and all three girls said the experience lived up to their expectations.

“It was … really tall and really bumpy,” said Kaylee.

Kaylee rode with Elise, her best friend. Both said they had never ridden a camel before.

“It was awesome,” said Savannah, who is 7.

Each year the school sets reading goals for students to reach over the summer, ranging from 800 to 1,200 minutes, depending on the student’s grade level. Students who meet the goal get a special reward, which is paid for by the school’s parents club.

According to Golston, past rewards have included bowling trips, a trip to a corn maze, limo rides and a visit to the PEAK Elite gym.

“We have to have at least a five-year rotation (of events),” said Golston.

Golston said that the idea of having camel rides for students came when she saw a truck carrying a load of camels while she was driving.

According to Golston, the parents club paid about $900 to hire West Coast Camels in Southern Oregon to come up and give students rides. More than 170 of the school’s 470 students met their goals.

“It’s really important for kids to read over the summer so that they don’t have the summer slide,” said Golston. According to the educational nonprofit Reading Is Fundamental, the “summer slide” is when “Children who do not read over the summer will lose more than two months of reading achievement.”

That’s not a problem for these camel-riding winners. Elise and Kaylee, both 8, said that they love to read.

“It’s my favorite thing to do,” said Elise. “Right when I get home, I read.”

Elise’s favorite book is “A Nest for Celeste,” by Henry Cole. Kaylee’s favorite book is “Kylie Jean, Cupcake Queen,” by Marci Peschke.

“I like to read books because sometimes I learn new things,” Kaylee said.

Savannah said she likes the Clarice Bean books by Lauren Child. She said she’s even written her own book, about a fishing trip with her family where they caught no fish that they could eat.

“I like to read because books really inspire me to write my own books,” she said.

___

Information from: Gazette-Times, https://www.gtconnect.com

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