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Loving reading in Perham, New York Mills

Kelsey Knickrehn and Conway Rice represent their classroom's country well, as proud citizens of the United States, during the New York Mills Olympic opening ceremony, held Feb. 11 to stir up student enthusiasm for "I Love to Read Month."1 / 3
These students held up an Olympic sign stating their allegiance: Sweden.2 / 3
The U.S. "Olympic Team" was represented by these New York Mills youngsters.3 / 3

As the Winter Olympics are now officially in full swing, students in New York Mills are trying their hardest to keep up with the Olympic pace--when it comes to their reading goals for the month.

Although there are gold, silver, and bronze medals planned for high-achieving readers, there's an even more coveted prize the kindergarten through 6 graders are clamoring for: a chance to see NYM Dean of Students/Activities Director Travis Hensch dye his hair and beard green.

Hensch announced his hair dyeing challenge to the students at the February 11 Olympic themed opening ceremony held at the school to kick-off "I Love to Read Month." As the students applauded, giggled, and squirmed at the thought of Hensch's hair gone green, he outlined the guidelines for his challenge.

Simply put, if 304 students (70 percent of total enrollment--currently at 380 students) reach the "gold medal" mark with their month-long reading challenge, Hensch will dye his hair and beard green during the closing ceremony.

To receive a gold medal at the end of the month, a student in grades K-3 must read at least 25 books (in or outside of class) during the month of February. In grades 4-6, each student will receive a gold medal at the end of the month if he/she reads at least 300 pages (in or outside of class) during the month of February. Silver and bronze medals will also be awarded to students reaching other reading milestones during "I Love to Read Month."

The official contest start date was February 12, set to end on Feb. 28. This way, the New York Mills event will coincide with the Winter Olympics. The closing ceremony will be held on March 1.

During the opening ceremony on Feb. 11, Hensch introduced all K-6 classes and the respective countries they will represent during the Olympics. Students in each of the NY Mills classes sprung into the Olympic spirit, supporting their countries with matching hats, clothing, and colorful banners promoting their nations.

Countries represented by the NY Mills classrooms included the United States, China, Canada, Russia, Japan, Greece, Korea, Sweden, Hungary, Denmark, Austria, Poland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, and Finland. These are just some of the approximately 80 countries that compete in the Winter Olympics.

Several fifth graders took the stage in the NY Mills school auditorium to explain some of the various sports that are played at the Winter Olympics. Students shared facts about everything from speed skating to skeleton, luge to biathlon, ice hockey to curling. Also mentioned were the Paralympics.

To conclude the opening ceremony events at the school, the history of the Olympic torch was explained. Students then cheered on members of the student council as they passed the torch from one to another, weaving throughout the auditorium. The torch completed its journey up on the stage with Mr. Hensch, who led the students in a spirited declaration: "Let the games begin!"