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Kids Hit Books at Fast Clip, Then Go After the Principal

April 26, 1996|JOHN POPE

When Principal Richard Guinn proposed an unusual wager to the students at L.P. Webber Elementary School in October, he really didn't expect them to keep their part of the bargain.

But to his surprise, the student body of 500 kindergarten through sixth-graders logged 1 million minutes of extracurricular reading within six months.

So Guinn made good on his part of the bet Thursday: He let the kids take a shaver to his head.

Amid chants of "Shorter! Shorter!" the students watched Guinn's silver locks fall.

About 24 children took part in the shearing, which was done in stages to give more kids a turn.

"They really finished me off," Guinn said.

When the school year began, Guinn and other staff members were worried about the school's results from a standardized reading test and were looking for ways to boost students' enthusiasm for books, he said.

"Our reading scores have not been what we've wanted," he said. "All of us were really concerned about it, and out of brainstorming we came up with the 'Millionaire's Club.' "

The plan was simple. If the students could read a collective 1 million minutes, about 16,500 hours, by April 1, Guinn would have his hair cut extremely short before a crowd.

The students were given folders to take home and record the minutes they read.

Parents were asked to participate and double check the results, Guinn said.

Kindergarten students who are not able to read were allowed to have their parents read to them for credit, he said.

"I didn't think they would be able to do it," Guinn said. "One thing that really helped was that through fund-raising, each teacher could spend $400 on library books for their classrooms.

"Most of our kids don't have a lot of books at home, so having them readily available helped a lot."

The novelty of the bet also seemed to contribute to the students' eagerness, Guinn said.

"The kids liked the idea. They thought I might look pretty good with no hair."

Aesthetics aside, "I will say this. I'm a lot cooler today than I was yesterday," Guinn said.

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