NEWBERRY — Whether it is front page news could be debatable but for Gallman Elementary School administrators, camping out this September was a page-turning experience.
Principal Nikki Hunter and Assistant Principal Christopher Dukes promised students they would sleep on the front lawn if Gallman Elementary School sold more than 1,000 books at the Scholastic Fall Book Fair.
Thanks to the generosity of family members, community supporters, teachers and staff, the students held up their end of the bargain by purchasing 1,003 books.
That meant that Hunter and Dukes had to don their onesie pajamas, roll out their sleeping bags, and put on some bug spray to brave a muggy September night. The campout was limited, in person, to Dukes and Hunter, but that did not mean the children could not participate.
Students joined in for a live chat via Facebook and were encouraged to set up tents in their homes using sheets and blankets.
“A powerful part of the event was the request for students to create their own reading nooks at home,” said GES student teacher Kevin Boozer. “This really brought the idea of having that special time and place to set apart for reading.”
The event was a rousing success with over 3,000 people viewing portions of it on Facebook. Students were encouraged to have their parents submit ”Campies”, or photos of them as they camped out, to the school’s Facebook page.
“We have placed a large emphasis this year on reading and literacy but also on our school social media presence,” said Dukes. “This event helps us show the community what they can expect in the coming months from our Gator brand, and we could not be more excited.”
The book chat included roasting s’mores, sing-a-longs and concluded with a read aloud bedtime story.
“We had a lot of fun with the Facebook live post, especially when Mr. Dukes put me on the spot to create song lyrics for the children using a ukulele,” said Hunter. “We did our best to make the night spontaneous, similar to the way these children would experience a camp out or sleep over. Now, maybe they will model this behavior when they have sleepovers or play dates with their friends and family.”
This year at Gallman Elementary School, faculty and staff are placing a premium on promoting students, building community and instilling pride.
“Our team has a strong passion for literacy, and this event shows it through and through,” said GES media specialist Laney Cobb. “This event helps our students really feel the importance of reading academically and, importantly, recreationally.”
The event coincided with the school kickoff for Read Your Way to the Big Game. Dukes is an avid Clemson fan while Hunter is supporting her Gamecock students in the contest. Students will “vote” by meeting their reading log goals for the contest.
Dukes and Hunter modeled this by reading stacks of six grade level appropriate books each during the event, the amount of books each child needs to log to be eligible for the contest. Some lucky winners throughout South Carolina will receive tickets to the Clemson-Carolina game and sideline access.