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The suspense came to an all-time high for a group of students at Clinton Elementary School just days after returning to school after the winter break.
Several fourth-graders in Kristal Salyer’s class had met and exceeded their reading challenge – each reading more than 6,700 minutes worth of books.
For their effort, Salyer would reward them in a big way.
But just how?
It would be a surprise, and they’d have to wait until Jan. 7 to get it.
As they walked outside the school that afternoon, they were shocked to see two limousines waiting to pick them up. They knew then this was going to be something special after all.
“I felt excited because it was my first time riding in a limousine,” said fourth-grader Gabriel Stewart.
Eleven students got the reward. The boys rode in one limo and the girls in another.
Once inside, they had no idea where they were headed, though the amenities inside kept them entertained.
“It had a TV, a radio and drinks - all kinds of stuff,” fourth-grader Essence Frazier said. “We got to sing songs.”
Many of the students tried to guess where they were headed.
Frazier though they might be going to a museum or the movies. Other predictions included a concert, a trip to Auburn University – Salyer’s alma mater in Alabama – and a tour of a Popsicle factory.
About 30 minutes after their mystery trip began, they ended up at Salyer’s house in Indian Land, where they played games, ate a spaghetti dinner and watched a movie. The group was there more than four hours.
“We were playing and having fun,” Stewart said. “All of us being together, like a family.”
After the event-filled afternoon at Salyer’s house, the limos brought the students back to Clinton Elementary. They arrived at the school around 8 p.m., with parents and others waiting to pick them up.
The reading effort is part of the 100 Book Challenge, a national scholastic program that all students at Clinton Elementary participate in.
The school is provided with books that are rated based on grade level. The students earn points – or “steps” – when they read. Fifteen minutes of reading earns a student one step.
Salyer decided months ago that she’d do something special to recognize the students in her class who reached 450 steps.
Samantha Ellis, the top reader thus far in Salyer’s class, said it was great to ride in a limo and visit her teacher’s home. Without that treat, though, she’d still be motivated to read.
“It’s not about the reward,” Ellis said. “It’s just about the reading.”
Salyer’s past challenge ran from September until the first week of January. Her students are now working on the next challenge – in which she’s encouraging them to reach an additional 450 steps.
Salyer said another big surprise is in the works.
“I wonder what it will be?” Salyer joked.
She believes providing incentives helps students strengthen their love for reading.
“This trip was a great motivator for the kids,” Salyer said. “We all need something to encourage us. This pushed them a little bit.”
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 283-1152