ALBANY -- One of the signs read "Lasso a Book." Another said "Wanted: Reader."
Getting students rejuvenated about reading was the goal of Radium Springs Elementary School's eighth annual Reading Roundup Tuesday.
Students and staff members wore Western-themed attire, and the event featured Sir Mackie the clown, members of the Albany Buffalo Riders, and musicians Bill Stewart and Lawson Swan. It also included interactive storytelling in the cafeteria and gym, which was decorated with bundles of hay, stick horses, a saddle, a rope and other Western items.
The storytelling in the cafeteria was one of the most entertaining activities as teachers acted out fairy tales but updated them with modern themes for older students.
"Our kids' reaction is so gratifying, and our kids love it," said Eugene James of the Buffalo Riders, who were unable to bring three of the group's quarterhorses to the event because of recent wet weather. "Our main goal is to express readership, discipline and to be good students all the way through."
Clown Sir Mackie of Albany said Radium students responded well to his antics.
"They were great," he said. "They love me and they love reading, and they love me back. That pretty much sums it up."
Fourth-grader Briana Odoms enjoyed the event.
"My favorite part was Sir Mackie, and when we got in the music room we got to read a book with our partners to the whole fourth grade," she said. Briana said she has scored two 80s and one 100 on her five Accelerated Reader book tests.
Fifth-grader Logan Hall said the ability to read makes it possible to take tests.
"It will help you understand if you take a test, you can read it," said Logan, who likes reading fiction books about monsters.
Stanley P. Roberts said he appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Reading Roundup. Roberts read "Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story" by Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney to the students, which included his nieces, second-grader Ka'Rncia and kindergartner Kennedy. To fit in with the other adults, Roberts wore a straw cowboy hat, and his belt featured a big gold buckle.
"I liked the way the kids were interacting and learning," said Roberts, who recently wrote a book titled "U Must Tell the Truth," published by AuthorHouse. "The kids were very interested in what was being read. I think they're getting a lot out of it."
Inviting parents and others from the community helped strengthen the significance of reading for the students.
"I think when children see people from the community participating and (talking) about how important reading is, it sparks their interest and tells them how important reading is," fourth-grade math teacher Pamela Williams said. "Reading is for every subject in the curriculum, including math, and that's what I was showing with (reading) the 'Math Wizard.' Usually, we introduce during story time books they wouldn't normally select like 'Math Wizard'."
Radium Springs Principal Gail Griffin said the Reading Roundup event helps to keep students excited about reading during the holidays.
"As time moves on, you have to watch and see what the pace is," Griffin said. "Sure, you have natural readers who are going to be faithful and diligent and are going to read, but you always have a group that you're going to monitor to create opportunities to keep them participating.
"What we also want the kids to understand is to read for pleasure, as well as for information."