DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kahala Elementary School Principal Steven Hirahara read to the students yesterday while on the library's roof. To boost students' participation in the Accelerated Reading program, Hirahara said he would read to the children if they read at least 7,500 books and passed quizzes on the books they read. The kids passed the goal by reading more than 10,000 books.
Up on the roof!
Kahala students get a special reward for beating their reading goal
Kahala Elementary School students -- and their principal -- have taken reading to a higher level.
The 497 students read more than 2,500 books above the goal set by Principal Steven Hirahara. They were motivated by Hirahara's promise to read stories from the library roof.
For two hours yesterday morning, amid falling leaves and curious birds, surrounded by stuffed animals, Hirahara made good on his lofty promise.
"Try not to fall off!" one boy called out as Hirahara stood up at one point and gestured dramatically during "Mouse Soup."
Sixth-grader Kaimana Peregil thought the whole thing "kinda weird." He and a friend shook their heads when asked if they thought any other school had a principal who would do this.
The rooftop read-aloud was all the idea of Suzanne Hee, the school's librarian for 15 years, who said "the lifelong love of reading" is what she wants to nurture in the youngsters. For several years the school has been using the Accelerated Reading program, which involves computerized quizzes to test comprehension.
This was the first year she and the faculty boosted the program by challenging the students to read 7,500 books. They ended up reading more than 10,000, she said. Hee thought their reward, seeing their principal read from the roof, was "so symbolic, since we went through the roof with the challenge."
Students who were formerly reluctant readers showed a marked increase in enthusiasm and improved their reading skills, Hee noted.
One of the most prolific readers in the second grade, Daniel Ota, 7, has read at least 160 books since September. Some of his favorites include the "big fat books" such as "Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix." When he does not understand a word, he has learned to look it up in a dictionary.
Natalie Loui, 6, has been reading for the joy of it since she was 5, averaging about four books a week. She said her favorite books series is the "The Magic Treehouse," by Mary Pope Osborne. She read 92 books for the school's challenge.
Loui also whispered that she was afraid Hirahara might fall off the roof.
Hirahara, a former high school music director, said he likes having fun with the kids while reinforcing the idea that "we value reading." He posed questions to them after reading a story and tossed key chains and other trinkets as prizes to outstretched hands.
The possibility of falling made him a bit nervous, Hirahara admitted, but he stayed secure by sitting on the edge of his chair and bracing himself with his feet.
For next year, some teachers are already thinking of upping the challenge by having Hirahara sit in a dunking booth, with students earning the right to throw one ball for every five books they have read.
"They can talk all they want. I think teachers should get involved with that one," he said.