Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

St. Matthew Students Put Reading On Display

St. Matthew fourth grader Ellie Blackburn explains why she chose the book "Dork Diaries," written by Rachel Renée Russell, to a volunteer librarian acting as a judge during the reading fair competition. The Message photo by Trisha Hannon Smith

For years, St. Matthew School in Mount Vernon held a schoolwide science fair each winter for the students. Four years ago they decided to add a reading fair in the spring to round out their curriculum.


On May 15, tables filled the school gym with projects featuring beloved characters from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Dork Diaries,” “Wonder” and “Pinkalicious.” Some posters displayed three-dimensional renderings of the characters, while others featured flowers, brightly colored borders and, of course, glitter.


“It helps the students get excited about reading,” said first-grade teacher Laura Eickhoff.


Students created displays, not unlike a science fair poster, but focused on the finer parts of their chosen story, including plot, character, conflict and resolution.


“Students can choose any fiction book if approved by their teacher. The projects go along with our (curriculum) standards in a way that’s more exciting for the students,” said Eickhoff.


The competition goes much further than simply the visible appeal of the poster, although the students’ creativity clearly shined through their displays. Librarians from the Alexandrian Public Library in Mount Vernon interview the third, fourth and fifth-grade students, asking questions about the book and the students’ opinions and perceptions.


The first and second graders took part in the ‘junior book fair,’ creating displays but not participating in the interview portion of the reading fair. Kindergarteners participation is optional.


Each student earned a first, second or third place rating. Teachers choose an overall winner from the junior division and a grade level winner from grades 3, 4 and 5.  Winners receive gift certificates to use to buy - what else - more books.


Teachers revealed the winners after lunch, when the reading fair opened to the public, allowing parents and friends to come and see the displays.  


Eickhoff hopes the reading fair continues for many years and expressed her gratitude to the volunteers who make the program possible, especially the librarians who generously donate their time each year to act as judges. It has become one of the most anticipated activities of the school year for the students at St. Matthew School.