Inaugural ‘Reading Fair’ held

Mindy Kearns Special to The Register

May 5, 2014

NEW HAVEN — An academic fair new to Mason County was held Thursday at New Haven Elementary School (NHES), and organizers deemed the event a “wonderful success.”

Over 80 projects were submitted by students for judging in the inaugural NHES Reading Fair. Principal Stacy Bissell suggested the fair during a curriculum meeting in the fall, and as the reading and language arts representative, teacher Laura Cullen got the ball rolling.

“We had information from the Mississippi State Reading Fair, which I looked over and I thought, ‘This could be very workable for NHES,’” said Cullen. “My thoughts were that we have science fairs, social studies fairs, math field day and spelling bees, so why not focus on the importance and fun of reading?” Cullen said she also wanted to provide the opportunity for students in kindergarten through second grade to participate in a school fair, so those students were involved, as well as third through sixth grade.

Participants had to give an oral presentation as well as have a display. Students in grades three through six were allowed to use PowerPoint for the display if they chose, which sharpened their technological skills.

“As I saw the students in the hallway waiting to speak to the judges, I could see sparks of excitement and nervous anticipation on their faces,” Cullen stated. “That told me they were proud of their work and were wanting to score high. Succeeding at presenting well was important to them, and being able to make a good presentation is one of the 21st century Common Core skills we teach at all grade levels.”

There were four categories at the fair: fiction, individual participant; fiction, group; non-fiction, individual; and non-fiction, group. Winners received ribbons and books as prizes.

Along with Cullen, a committee worked to plan and execute the fair. Members included teachers Judy Browning, Lorie Grimm, Kira Northup, Rebecca Roll, Jessica Hitt, Angelia Gilkey, and Kathy Baker.

Cullen said most of the projects were very well done and extremely creative. To be eligible for a first place win, the student not only had to have the best project in his/her category, but also be judged at 90 points or higher. Second place winners had to achieve a score of at least 80 points, and third place at least 70 points.

The NHES teacher committee hopes the reading fair will grow.

“My hope is that the idea of a local reading fair will catch on at the county and state levels here in West Virginia,” Cullen said. “Wouldn’t that be just the coolest thing to happen? It would give me great satisfaction and happiness to see that our wonderful little school in New Haven could start a statewide opportunity for students in elementary schools across the state.”

Cullen’s work and enthusiasm for reading have not gone unnoticed by her peers. She is the Mason County Reading Association’s “Carol S. Miller Reading Teacher of the Year.” Cullen will go on to compete for the state reading teacher title at the annual conference in November.