The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 17, 2013

Creekside student among state’s top readers

By Kim West

HARVEST — What is the common ground for perfect attendance, a thirst for learning and a passion for studying art?

For Creekside Elementary fourth-grader Wyatt Howell, these are among his top interests, along with playing soccer and dreaming about becoming an art teacher and a big-game hunter.

Howell, 9, is among six elementary students honored statewide for their reading endeavors in the Summer Learning Challenge program sponsored by the state Department of Education.

State education officials invited Howell to Montgomery on Sept. 12 to meet Alabama Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice and receive a resolution for finishing 37 books and logging more than 44 hours of reading this summer.

But Howell, who particularly enjoys the “Jack Sparrow” series of books based on the Disney movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” declined the state school board’s invitation primarily because he did not want to be counted absent.

He is on track to earn his fourth straight perfect attendance award if he manages to finish this school year without any absences, tardies or early check-outs.

This led Wyatt’s parents, John and Renetta Howell of East Limestone, to ask state officials if Wyatt could receive his resolution through the Limestone County Board of Education.

Along with his parents and sisters, Josie, 6, and Ruby, 2, Howell — described by his mother as “very focused for his age” and interested in art that is “geometric and symmetrical” — attended Tuesday’s board meeting.

Curriculum Director Jan Tribble, Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk and Creekside Principal Matt Scott helped Wyatt’s parents surprise him with the resolution, which praised his enthusiastic participation in the summer program.

Renetta said an email sent in May by Wyatt’s third-grade teacher, Terri Hill, alerted her about the program. The Learning Challenge encourages students to read five to eight books, keep a reading log and practice math skills each day through games sent via email.

“We did this to help Wyatt keep up with his learning during the summer months because kids can lose so much until they start back in August,” Renetta said. “It’s a really neat program, and it uses the math games to reinforces his skills and keep everything fresh in his mind. And we wanted to still encourage him to read.”

Wyatt, his mother and sister Josie pay regular visits to the Athens-Limestone Public Library during the summer, and the the school library during the fall and spring semesters.

Renetta said her family is looking forward to having a new library by next summer when the new ALPL is scheduled to open in the former Kroger’s building.

“We had to drive by and take a look at (the ongoing construction), and Wyatt is very excited about it,” she said. “He wonders if they’ll have more books because he’s hoping they can carry more of some of his favorite book series.”