Jim Windisch wanted to challenge students — not just here locally at Bryan Elementary in Coeur d’Alene — but around the state as well.
And for a first year, it turned out about as he had envisioned.
Windisch, the Advanced Learning teacher at Bryan Elementary, introduced a program in which elementary school students from around the state picked a book to read during class this year.
“I was really wanting to encourage my kids to read some more complex books than what they were choosing,” Windisch said. “Also, recent books. Because with the way school funding is, most of the more complex books are ones that have been there for 15 to 20 years. Just getting them interested in some newer books that were a little more challenging to them than the ones they were choosing on their own.”
Throughout the school year, classes read eight different books, giving a special award to "The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell" — nominated by Tamara Palmer from Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Pocatello.
“This year, we had 22 classrooms sign up to participate in some way,” Windisch said. “In the end, I think we had four classes that voted and went through the whole process, so at least we had that. I’m hoping next year it will grow from there.”
One of the classrooms that really jumped in wholeheartedly was Lewis and Clark Elementary in Pocatello.
“It’s been exciting for the kids to realize they’re being part of something that’s bigger than themselves,” Windisch said. “It’s bigger than their own school as well.”
This year’s winner is a story about twins who are transported to a land populated by fairy-tale characters.
“It was all voted on by kids,” Windisch said. “This was definitely the first year. I would have been happy with just a handful of classes participating, and it kind of was. I’m hoping next year it can grow and include more from across the state.”
The Idaho Kids Vote Book Award strives to encourage students to read outstanding, recently-published books; give kids an outlet to discuss the books they read; and connect kids from across Idaho to help them better understand all of the people who call our state home.
Windisch added the program was popular with students in fourth and fifth grades.
“We’re focusing on middle-grade books,” Windisch said, “which appeals from 8 to 13-year olds. Really the fourth and fifth grades. The younger kids didn’t really get involved with it at this point.”
Windisch is in his 14th year with the Coeur d’Alene School District and is in his 12th year at Bryan Elementary, and third as the Advanced Learning teacher at Bryan Elementary.
“I just love working with the kids,” Windisch said. “Hearing their ideas and in reading especially, when they make the connections with what they’re reading and things in their own life and in the broader world. It’s just amazing to see what they come up with there. I see so much wonderful student thinking over all classes. That’s what keeps me going and coming to work each day.”