From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 17 - 12/21/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

The Faler's Reading Awards
Jud & Claire Faler provide and incentive for struggling readers
by Rob Shaul

"When you're struggling, sometimes all it takes is a little act of kindness to know that people believe in you, and you really can excel," said Pinedale's Claire Faler. Four years ago, Claire and her husband, Jud, created the Faler's Reader Award to recognize kids in grades 1, 2, and 3 in the Pinedale Elementary School who have improved significantly in reading. The Faler's Reader Award has become an incredible example of how the private sector can positively impact education.

The idea for the Faler's Reader Award had its beginnings several years ago when one of the Faler's own children was experiencing problems in reading. However, after six weeks of extra help and attention, their child was at or above grade level in reading. Jud took note, and several years later, he approached then Superintendent Dr. Jerry Wilson with an idea for the Faler's Reader Award.

The basis for the award was, "just to provide recognition for students who were experiencing difficulty and those kids in the middle who never get any recognition," explains Claire. The only criterion for the award is that a student has improved significantly in reading.

Every 6 weeks, teachers in every section of grades 1, 2, and 3 at the Pinedale Elementary School submit names to the Falers of students who have improved their reading. The Falers don't set a limit on the number of students who can receive the award; the discretion is left totally up to the teachers.

Each student whose name is submitted receives a $10 gift certificate to Faler's General Store, which they can use to purchase anything they wish. Claire, or her daughter Beau, personally goes to the school and presents the students with their award certificates.

Further, the name of every student who wins a certificate is put into a hat, and at the end of the year, six names are randomly drawn. Two students from each class whose names are drawn win a new bicycle that is presented at the year's-end awards assembly. Claire says she's affectionately known as the "bike lady" in the hallways and classrooms of the Elementary School.

"We both felt that if you can read, you can do anything," adds Jud. "I've always felt it was the basis for an education."

"It's really put a boost into my program," says Pinedale Elementary Reading Specialist Mary Ann Almquist. "When you don't know how to read and you're struggling, it's tough," she continues. The Faler's Reader Award lets kids know they get rewarded for their hard work. Mary Ann says the award tells the kids, "'Gee, this is alright. Maybe it's okay to be working hard.'"

Another aspect of the award that is unique is that the only criterion is that kids have improved their reading. This means there's not pressure to win it, says Mary Ann. "It just kind of pops out of the blue." She adds that the $10 is really a lot of money to these kids.

"And the other thing is the personal touch when they deliver the awards," says Ms. Almquist. Claire or Beau go to the student's class to deliver the award. "The other kids are excited for the kid's progress," says Mary Ann. "I think it's wonderful."

"The kids are really excited when they get the awards," says Beau. "They are really appreciative." Beau feels the award helps build self-confidence. It lets the kids know "people in the community really do care how well you can read, and it's something that can be rewarded."

Rita Oriet's daughter, Kaila, received a Faler's Reader Award last November. "It made her feel proud of herself," says Rita. Ms. Oriet says the award has made her daughter want to read more, and helped her realize that not only her parents, but others in the community have noticed "how much she's excelled in reading."

Jud and Claire say the reward has given back to them in many ways. "There have been so many incredible experiences with these kids," says Claire. One year, one of the students whose name was drawn to win a new bike declined it. He had just gotten a new bike, and didn't think it was fair for him to get another. He asked that another name be drawn.

On another occasion, a student's name that was drawn for a new bike had won one the previous year. This student also declined the bike because he didn't think it was fair that he should win two years in a row.

"When you're struggling, sometimes all it takes is a little act of kindness to know people believe in you and you can really excel," concludes Ms. Faler.

On average, the Falers give out 20-25 reader's awards every six weeks, plus the bicycles at the end of the year. Over the approximate four years the program has been in existence, the Falers have given hundreds of reader's awards.

"It's really special. It's really generous," says Mary Ann. "I think that Jud and Claire and Beau really care about the progress these kids are making and they want to do whatever they can to make the progress better." <

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Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul