The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

May 26, 2014

Danville Primary School principal prepares for summer Mohawk

DANVILLE — The principal of Danville Primary School wants to turn reading into a hair-razing experience for his students.

In order to encourage them to read more during the year, John Bickhart promised he would have his hair shaved into a Mohawk if the school’s 540 kindergarten through second-grade students read a certain amount of minutes this school year.

And he’ll be keeping his promise on June 9, when clippers come down on his hair a few days before the end of school.

“I wanted to do something for the kids if they push themselves,” Bickhart said, and they did. Currently, the students are sitting at around 350,000 total minutes of reading since the program started in October.

While Bickhart originally set the goal for the Mohawk at 500,000 minutes total, he’s been so impressed with the work ethic of his students he plans to go through with it anyway.

“Their efforts have shown me that they’ve earned this,” he said.

By his calculation, there are about 75,600 minutes in a school year, meaning that combined the students have read for just shy of four and two-thirds school years.

While there were some lulls in reading progress at times, all it took to get the kids motivated again was for Bickhart to remind them of his promised hairstyle change.

“They’d say ‘I can’t wait to see you in your mohawk,” he said. Even kids who normally didn’t make a habit of reading chipped in.

Kindergarteners were challenged to read 10 minutes a day, first-graders 15 minutes and second-graders 20 minutes.

Students were encouraged to read whatever they wanted, just so long as they read. Some students read comic books, while others read popular children’s series such as “A to Z Mystery” or “The Magic Tree House.” The only criteria was that it had to be interesting to them, Bickhart said.

Each class kept track of its own reading totals, with classes receiving special rewards such as extra recess or activities when they accumulated a certain amount of minutes.

The reading incentive program wouldn’t have been as successful as it was without the help of the teachers, Bickhart said.

“Danville Primary School is fortunate to have excellent teachers who engage students in reading, promote reading and a love of learning.”

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