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Harris-Lake Park students earn Big 10 Reading Challenge title

Students in grades 3-5 at Harris-Lake Park Elementary School were recently crowned as champion of a Big 10 Reading Challenge. (Special to The Globe)

LAKE PARK, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s basketball team recently beat the University of Nebraska, but in this type of unique competition, the credit goes entirely to students at Harris-Lake Park Elementary School.

H-LP third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were recently crowned as champion of a Big 10 Reading Challenge. Representing the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, the H-LP students defeated St. Bernadette School, 154-122, for the championship. The school in Bellevue, Neb. represented the NU women’s basketball team.

The 12-week challenge included an eight-week “regular season” followed by a four-week “playoff season.” Brackets were updated each week as schools took on other schools representing other Big 10 universities. New Hope’s Meadow Lake Elementary School, which represented the University of Minnesota, finished fourth after falling to Maryland, 27-45.

During the competition, students earned points by reading short stories on a digital reading program, Reading Plus.

According to H-LP fourth-grade teacher Bret Greve, the program has a variety of different subjects from which students can choose. Greve credited the school’s one-to-one technology with its new Chromebooks as playing an important role in clinching a victory, as students not only read during specific reading times, but also when they completed other homework assignments early.

Greve made clear that the challenge wasn’t just about how many books students could get through.

“There’s 10-question quizzes,” Greve said of their reading comprehension accountability.

The more books students read and scored well on comprehension, the more challenging the books became. Some students progressed three to four levels throughout the 12 weeks, Greve said.

So how did the youngsters pull out the W?

“Some of the kids have a competitive side to them,” Greve said.

They were also motivated by the UI women players, as players took turns recording periodic videos to the students. That included standout Megan Gustafson and coach Lisa Bluder.

“That put a little smile on the kids face and made them work a little harder,” he said about the videos.

Greve said the videos encouraged students using basketball analogies, including one about 3-pointers.

“Whatever you did last week, see if you can triple that,” Greve said about coach Bluder’s message to students one week.

Greve wasn’t entirely certain how the school was selected to participate in the reading challenge, but that it was the only one in the entire state.

The competition was a positive experience, and Greve said he would encourage other schools, if presented with the opportunity, to take advantage of it.