When the Paris FFA officer team learned that elementary students in their small Missouri town were scoring low in reading, they knew they had to help.
“Our chapter saw a need in our community and a need in the elementary school and we wanted to make an impact on the kids,” said Aly Francis, Paris FFA Vice President. “At the end of the project, we not only brought up their reading scores but we made an impact on the children.”
And a major impact it was. The entire school, 282 kids from kindergarten through sixth grade, read 95,000 minutes in a month through Paris FFA’s “Beef Up Reading” Program. The program was so successful it earned the chapter the title of the 2017 National FFA Premier Chapter: Growing Leaders winner.
“Elementary teachers work every day to help increase students’ reading abilities, but we recognized that reading from 8:00-3:00 is not enough,” Francis said. “We would need to get each student to want to read at home and to get their parents involved as well.”
Around one third of the 90-member chapter participated in the reading program, visiting classrooms and discussing the importance of reading. The chapter even got parents involved by hosting a free barbecue brisket dinner for all students, parents, and teachers during the Title I Reading Night.
Chapters eligible to compete for the National Premier Chapter: Growing Leaders award must demonstrate competency in doing innovative things or taking traditional concepts and applying a creative twist in the growing leaders division of the chapter’s Program of Activities.
The Paris FFA chapter certainly applied a creative twist to their reading program to inspire the children to read. When the elementary students met their overall goal of 95,000 minutes of reading, they got to throw cow pies at the Paris FFA officer team.
“The smiles and the screams of the elementary students said it all as the cow pies were thrown,” Francis said. “We love to involve agriculture in our elementary schools, even if it as simple as kids using cow pies to throw at FFA Officers once they met their reading goals”
The elementary teachers also loved the program. Francis said the officers fielded comments such as “we have never seen our kids so excited to read” and “we have kids reading at home each night because they want to meet their goals.”
And Francis said Paris FFA members had a ton of fun reading to the kids, getting cow pies thrown in their face, and watching the kids learn.
“The members enjoyed getting to see the elementary kids grow not only as readers, but also as leaders,” Francis said. “I personally enjoyed seeing the kids have fun with the program and that they can accomplish any goal they want to as long as they have fun and work hard in which they did in the Beef Up Reading Program.”
Francis said she encourages other FFA chapters to engage with elementary and junior high students.
“These kids are always important to any chapter because they are the possible future of your FFA chapter,” Francis said. “I also encourage other chapters to challenge their elementary to do what seems like the impossible. This always helps the children grow as leaders.”