Challenge: 100.

Reward: Lifetime.

Chatfield Elementary School parents and students gathered at the school last Tuesday evening for a challenge - the American Reading Company Action 100 "100 Book Challenge." This is a reading curriculum now being used by the district to encourage students to read and parents to coach students' reading, sharing words that will lead to a lifetime of reading enjoyment.

Chatfield American Reading Company specialist Trista Stamness presented an outline of the program. She showed parents how to turn non-readers into enthusiastic bibliophiles by reading to them at an early age and helping them navigate the vocabulary of each book they read together as students develop their own reading skills.

Tenets of Action 100's "100 Book Challenge" include multicultural fiction and non-fiction books "at a variety of color levels to match the independent reading level of each student...rotated weekly so that children always have access to new titles at each level."

Another is letting students have 30 minutes of uninterrupted independent reading in school.

Stamness explained, "Each student practices applying whatever skill or strategy the teacher taught to a book of his or her choice that is at his or her independent reading level."

Students and parents keep reading log sheets, which are completed and signed by reading coaches - parents, teachers or other readers - tracking progress.

Finally, Stamness added, teachers and principals broadcast student success as students work toward the goal of establishing a reading lifestyle on or above grade level.

The American Reading Company's parent information packet stated, "The top 5 percent of students in achievement read 144 times more than the lowest 5 percent, students in private schools spend 67 percent more time reading than students in public schools, the quantity of trade book reading is the single best predictor of test score performance and success in schools, the reading level at which a student is challenged by exposure to new vocabulary and concepts without frustration is the reading level at which reading practice will promote maximum development, and students improve 2.66 grade levels per year per 60 minutes per school day they spend reading trade books."

It maintained, "If parents read, chances are children will read," and suggested ways to encourage reading, such as "designate reading time in the home - a time when television and radio are off and books are on."

Recommendations also included trying to visit the library weekly as a family, taking children to bookstores and encouraging them to spend their own money on books they want.

It is also recommended for each home to have a library of best-loved books to be read often and shared with others. Parents should read to young children and self-discipline is the key to a life of reading pleasure.

The information provided to the parents stated, "Read for information and fun, and books are like good fruit - rare, precious and healthy."

Tips for parents listed in the parent guide included reading at least 10 books to a child every day, choosing a quiet time for reading as well as choosing a special place for family reading.

It helps to let the child select the book to read aloud and to talk about the pictures as well as read the story.

Making reading a habit, pointing out objects, asking questions about what will happen, re-enacting the story, helps the child use his or her own imagination.

Stamness asked parents to be the at-home reading coaches that make the difference between a child mastering vocabulary and not, elaborating that her work with her own children has shown results.

She said when her daughter is close to finishing that last book but isn't quite getting it done, she reminds her of the medal she gets, and that makes all the difference.

"Your kids are all smart. They get smarter by reading," she stated.

Students spent the evening enjoying a story, "Get Out of the Nest, Nelly," about Nelly, a baby crow who wouldn't leave the nest, told by the author, Nancy Monson, and illustrated by Sarah Peterson.

After the story and popcorn, they joined their parents in the gymnasium for some serious family reading time, courtesy of the school district.