Meet the Winners of HMH's Word UP Challenge


Some of your students are natural readers who complete their assignments with ease and don’t need any encouragement to read independently. Others may require incentives and extra practice to master their reading skills. That’s where the Word UP Challenge can help.

Through this annual event, HMH helps schools and districts create an environment that rewards students for reading. This week we are honoring those schools whose All-Star Readers completed the most pages in literature or nonfiction books—in school, at home, or in any setting of their choice—between Sept. 12 and Dec. 7, 2017. Scores are tallied through Reading Counts!, a structured independent reading program designed to boost students’ literacy skills.

The winning schools—and the MVPs, or runners-up—celebrated following the Jan 4. announcements. The contest was open to schools that incorporate Reading Counts! into their curriculums, with winners receiving prizes including a party certificate, a visit from Curious George, a school plaque and banner, medals for individual student recognition, and HMH books for their libraries.

Here’s a compilation of the winners and MVPs in each of the Word UP Challenge’s three categories—which are based on student enrollment—and what they’re doing to honor their students.

CATEGORY A: 50–299 students enrolled in Reading Counts!

WINNER: Bob Folsom Elementary

Location: Farmington, Arkansas

Words Read: 9,646,673

Curious George was a no-show, unfortunately, during February’s monthly assembly. But that didn’t stop HMH’s Kim Hearne from taking it upon herself to dress up in the costume—high heels and all! The school awarded three medals to individual students for their achievements and was pleased to add new HMH books to its library.


MVP: Xavier Catholic Elementary

Location: Leavenworth, Kansas

Words Read: 7,115,842

Students at Xavier Catholic Elementary celebrated on Jan. 30—a day dedicated to literacy during this year’s Catholic Schools Week. Students dressed up as their favorite book characters. Lisa Forge, the school’s enrollment counselor, told us, “We are so excited for this honor and recognition of our fabulous students!” In addition to a school plaque and banner and HMH books for its library, three students also received medals for individual accomplishments.


CATEGORY B: 300–549 students enrolled in Reading Counts!

WINNER: Pantera Elementary

Location: Diamond Bar, California

Words Read: 54,517,522 

Students at Pantera Elementary celebrated their win at their quarterly Principal Award assembly—with Curious George in attendance. Alongside parents, teachers, and their classmates, students who reached milestones in their reading goals also earned recognition; the school awarded five individual medals. Before the assembly, Mika Trevizo, the school’s librarian, told us, “Our students are the inspiration that has kept this program running for over 10 years, and they will be over the moon when they hear of the celebration.”

MVP: Pathways Elementary School

Location: Ormond Beach, Florida

Words Read: 28,228,977

Pathways celebrated on Feb. 22, awarding five medals to outstanding students for their efforts. Among them was second grader Nihal, whose reading comprehension and fluency increased dramatically since he took on the challenge. As a result of his participation, he went from reading at Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) level 18 to higher than 28. His teacher, Amy Harms, told us, “This program really speaks to him. He enjoys the challenge, the competition, and the ability to work on reading books of his choice!”


CATEGORY C: 550+ students enrolled in Reading Counts! 

WINNER: Ridgeview Elementary (pictured at top)

Location: Granite Bay, California

Words Read: 152,438,944 

The school hasn’t held its celebration yet—but there are fun surprises in store on May 14, which is also when third graders from sister schools visit for “moving up day.” In addition to the other prizes, the school will receive 10 medals to award to individual students. Brandi Harris, the school’s librarian, told us, “I cannot express to you how excited I am that we won the competition.”

MVP: Birney Elementary School

Location: Redondo Beach, California

Words Read: 42,848,495

In an email, Robert Garcia, the school’s campus culture director, reacted with: “WOW! That is so amazing!” He informed the students of the award after they returned from winter break, and they celebrated Feb. 26. Ten medals recognized outstanding individual student efforts.

Learn more about HMH’s Reading Counts! independent reading program here, and watch this website for announcements about the 2018 Word UP Challenge.

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