Bus book challenge leaves driver in the dust

Posted on March 1, 2004

PARACHUTE, Colo. — A local bus driver here recently showed how all employees within a school district can make a difference in the education process, and that learning can take place anywhere, including on a school bus.

Small paper buses started to appear on the Route 1 bus at Garfield County School District No. 16. The tiny buses were a result of a challenge made by bus driver Linda Cannizzaro.

Miss Linda, as she’s called, had issued a reading challenge to all her Bea Underwood Elementary School passengers. The challenge — Miss Linda would read more pages in one month than all the students together. The reward? If Miss Linda won, she got a day of silence on the bus. If the students won, they got a popcorn party.

At the end of the challenge, Miss Linda shook her head as she exclaimed, “Oh, my poor, poor ears.” The numbers had been crunched and the students had out-read Miss Linda, 7,675 to 4,841. Forty-one students participated in the challenge. “I enjoy reading and thought the challenge would be a fun thing to do,” said Cannizzaro. “I already had a group of kids who are always reading and thought this would be a good way for all the kids to get involved with each other.”

The rules were simple. Students had to read at least one book. For the younger students, a parent or older sibling could read to them in order for them to qualify for the challenge.

Participants could challenge any book posted by asking the reader about the story line. The challenges included student-to-driver and driver-to-student. Miss Linda noted that it wasn’t unusual to have students borrowing books as they learned about what some of their fellow passengers were reading.

As the challenge progressed and the reading buses began to line the bus, the students’ competitive side surfaced. Every day, Miss Linda would announce the page tally. Soon it wasn’t uncommon to find students huddled on the bus as they added up the page numbers themselves.

“They couldn’t believe that I had read more pages then they had, so they would have to tally the numbers themselves. It sparked some of them to read even more,” said Cannizzaro. The students rallied in the last few days. “It was great to see how the kids got involved with each other and with reading.”

SANDY HANSON, Public information director for Garfield County School District No. 16 in Parachute, Colo.

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