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Seventh-graders Tony Burwell (from left), Nolvia Ayala and Vihareem Bailey participate in the annual Read-A-Thon at Henderson Collegiate on Saturday morning.

Henderson Collegiate’s annual read-a-thon showed seventh-grader Briana Sulyans how far she had come in her reading abilities.

She and her peers arrived at the last Saturday school of the year at 7 a.m. with pillows and books in hand to test how long they could read without stopping.

Briana made it through the entire four hours this year.

“I know that a lot of people in middle school and high school don’t read as much, but I want to be different,” she said. “It makes me proud because last year I fell asleep halfway through and got tapped out.”

Cofounder of Henderson Collegiate Carice Sanchez said she started the program as a fun way for students to build stamina when reading.

“Kids are so focused on the EOG and their AR points,” she said. “Today we just want them to get lost in a book.”

The read-a-thon required students to read four hours without interruption. If students fell asleep or became distracted, they were tapped out, or excused from the competition.

Sanchez said most students make it through the entire four hours, despite the intentional distractions teachers put in place to break their concentration.

“Seventh-graders have been doing this for years,” Sanchez said. “Our fourth-graders, though, are still building stamina.”

Seventh-grader Spotswood Burwell said he was one that struggled in the competition when first coming to Henderson Collegiate in the fifth grade.

“When I first came here, it was a real struggle,” he said. “My reading was not where it needed to be. Thanks to the read-a-thon and working to build my stamina, I am considered one of the best readers.”

Spotswood said he makes it through the whole four hours with ease now by choosing interesting books.

“I have a really hard time doing something for a long time that I am not particularly interested in,” he said. “But reading this book from the Mike Lupica series has really showed me my reading skills.”

Sanchez said she is proud of the 600 students taking the initiative to improve their reading on a Saturday.

“They probably woke up around 6 a.m. to come read when other students were still drooling on their pillows,” she said. “This is just another opportunity to show they are special.”

Students were required to get members of the community to sponsor every hour they read.

Sanchez said the donations will go towards the school’s library fund.

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.

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