HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — You can practically hear a pin drop in Amanda Drinnon’s English class at Highland Springs High School. The students are lost in their books.
“I really didn’t used to read books, but now I really like reading books,” says Junior Kayla Byrdsong.
Byrdsong is a cheerleader and member of the track team, but now she also found a new love, thanks to the Access, Choice, Time (ACT) program. Students at seven middle and high schools in Henrico, including Highland Springs, can read any book they want during the first thirty minutes of English class.
“There is no what they consider a punishment when they are done reading,” explains Drinnon, who graduated from Highland Springs and began teaching at the school in 2008. “There’s no essay, there’s no book report, there isn’t a quiz, there’s nothing other than the simple pleasure of enjoying what they’ve read and then having the opportunity to read another book.”
Drinnon says that appeal has helped ACT take off. She and exceptional education teacher Melodye Cutler helped to launch ACT at Highland Springs during the last school year as a pilot program, and it spread to several other schools this year.
“It helps because you get to choose the type of books you get to read, and you don’t feel like you have to read,” says Junior Kayjon Fleming.
Fleming admits, until ACT, he had not finished a book on his own since the fifth grade. Now he savors every page and completed five books in the first month and a half of the school year.
Drinnon has several English as a second language (ESL) students in her classes and says ACT offers them many benefits.
“I never had read a book in English in my home or other schools,” says ESL student Rubi Villegas. “Now in my school Highland Springs, I read six books. With this program, I learn new words too.”
The Henrico schools with ACT notice the enthusiasm about reading carries on well beyond English class for many students.
“In foreign language, in history, in science and in math, the teachers are overwhelmed at how excited the kids are at reading,” Drinnon describes how ACT is making a difference in classrooms throughout schools.
Byrdsong adds the best part of reading is the reward at the end.
“Getting new books, finishing them, it’s great,” she says with a smile.
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