LAKE IN THE HILLS – Dressed in a tuxedo with a red tie and red cummerbund, Martin Elementary School Principal Matt Webster welcomed dozens of community members through the school's doors Thursday for its annual Reading Week.
More than 80 readers from various professions came to Martin on Thursday, which also was Dress to Impress Day. Firefighters, police officers, government officials, restaurant owners, basketball coaches, high school athletes and referees all read their favorite book to students.
Reading Week, which this year has taken on a March Madness theme, was designed to get the students excited about books and encourage engagement with a variety of community leaders, Webster said.
"This number of 80-plus readers today demonstrates what District 158 has, which is incredible community support," he said. "They just really value education here in this district."
Webster began the week-long reading initiative Monday with some help from Huntley High School basketball players who talked to the students about the importance of reading, and then held a three-point shooting contest for each grade level. The winning shooters gave their designated grade level an extra library book checkout.
Webster was even able to get Ohio State guard Sam Thompson to send a video message to the students to let them know how important homework and reading is. Thompson also sent along pictures of himself studying in the players lounge.
"The underlying message is that reading and school matters, and we try to make it fun," Webster said. "Our fifth-graders by now have been told to do their reading homework for six years. So we have to spice it up and make it interesting."
"The students get very motivated (during Reading Week)," said Jen Raines, reading specialist at Martin. "We try to pick a theme they can connect to, and this year we picked March Madness because that's going on right now. It's especially fun for our boys, who are sometimes our reluctant readers."
Raines said exposing the students to the many different readers also gives them a look into several different career paths.
"The kids love to meet the different people who have different professions," she said. "It shows them the different professions that are out there that maybe they would like to do some day."
Reading Week is a continued effort by Webster's staff to remind kids that a solid reading foundation is critical to their success throughout their education.
"We want to help the kids understand that there's big life beyond Martin," Webster said. "We always tell them they have three schools to prepare for. Marlowe (Middle School), the high school, and then college. We've tried over the years to ingrain that here and let them know that the work they're putting in now is going to pay off some day."