Read to Ride gives away bikes to avid readers at St. Joseph School in Baltic

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Baltic - posted Mon., Jun. 17, 2013
St. Joseph School's 12 Read to Ride bicycle winners pose with the organization's board members. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
St. Joseph School's 12 Read to Ride bicycle winners pose with the organization's board members. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

A bright, shiny new bicycle was the surprise kick-start to a summer full of fun for some lucky students at St. Joseph School in Baltic last week, thanks to the Read to Ride program. A total of 12 students – a boy and girl from each class, kindergarten through grade five – went home from school June 13 with a bike, helmet and lock after winning a drawing for all students who participated in the year-long program.

Students earned tickets for the drawing by reading a prescribed number of minutes per week outside of assigned homework, said Read to Ride school liaison RuthAnne Collins. “We’re trying to encourage reading out of school,” she said. The program, founded in 2009, aims to get students exercising both their brains, by reading, and their bodies, by bicycling, she said.

Collins urged the students to keep reading throughout the summer. “If you read, you can open any door,” she said. It’s okay not to like reading, she told them, but they should keep at it anyway, just like brushing their teeth or eating breakfast. “You’ll get better if you practice,” she said.

“I hated to read, and that’s why I’m so passionate about this program,” Collins told the students. “My mom made me read. She was the meanest mom in the world. But guess what? She was the best mom in the world, because now I love to read, because it’s easy. If you read every single day over the summer so you don’t get rusty, when you get back to school, I promise it’s going to be easier.”

Sister Mary Patrick, SCMC, the principal at St. Joseph School, said that that her students took part in the Governor’s Reading Challenge over the summer last year. As a result, she said, “there’s been a significant improvement in our reading scores. The most important thing is that we become better readers. That helps across the board with everything.”

Collins, assisted by Read to Ride President Billy Caron and Vice-President Mark Sciola, drew names for each of the 12 bikes awarded at the school. Connor, who won the fourth-grade boys’ drawing, came up after the awards and quietly told the organizers that he’d won last year’s drawing. He said he wanted to give this year’s bike to one of his classmates, and his offer was gratefully accepted.

Collins said that a total of 96 bikes were given away this year at eight different schools through Read to Ride. While Norwich public schools were unable to participate, many local parochial schools took part, as well as Sayles Elementary in Sprague and other public schools. The program, which runs solely on donations, had a budget of $22,000 this year, she said.

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