Aidan Rauch, 8, left, reads his own book Thursday while his brothers Thomas, 7, and Connor, 5, listen to their mother, Millie, read one aloud at the family’s house in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — Millie Rauch’s third-grade son, Aidan, was determined this year to read the most minutes of anyone at Hall-Dale Elementary School as part of Read-a-Thon, the school’s fundraiser.

Aidan, 8, and his classmates and other students read for more than 100,000 minutes and raised almost $33,000 for the school at 26 Garden Lane in Hallowell.

The fundraiser was held during February break — from Feb. 8 to 19 — and done virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rauch, a member of the school’s parent-teacher organization who is in charge of the fundraising committee, said the success of this year’s Read-a-Thon was partially attributable to COVID-19.

“It’s a pandemic,” she said. “The silver lining is that there was nothing going on in February. It was quiet. No events were going on. I don’t know if it will translate next year, but I think they had more free time and were able to read more.”

Students not only had more free time, but parents could also spread the donation link around social media. In the past, paper was used to collect donations and to track the minutes students spent reading.

The top readers and those who collected the most in donations could choose from a variety of prizes, including a $100 LEGO set, touring the library and selecting books to take home or lunch with Principal Kristie Clark, which 44 students won for the minutes they read.

“Having a little motivation really helps,” Rauch said. “The top winners read over 2,000 minutes. That’s so much.”

Clark said she is excited to be having lunch with many students. She said the lunch dates will be scheduled around students’ regularly planned lunches and will follow COVID-19 safety regulations. If students attend Hall-Dale remotely, they will still have the chance to meet with Clark virtually for lunch.

“These lunch dates will be a special time for me to connect with my students, find out what types of books they read during the Read-a-Thon, what their reading goals are and whatever else they may be interested in sharing and discussing,” Clark said. “I’m looking forward to celebrating with them.”

Rauch said students who are studying only remotely were “really excited” to participate in the event. Since the Read-a-Thon was virtual, it was easy for most students to participate and record and track their reading minutes online.

Rauch said her children liked seeing the total minutes they had read increase on the online page.

“It definitely encouraged them to read more,” she said.

Rauch said two-thirds of the students at Hall-Dale Elementary School, part of Regional School Unit 2, participated in the Read-a-Thon. If students did not have internet access, they could keep track of their minutes and share this information with teachers, who would then log the hours.

“We included the pre-K students for the first time,” Rauch said. “They can do audiobooks or online book programs, such as Epic Books that read to you and your kid.”

Two years ago, when the school hosted its last Read-a-Thon, it raised $9,956. Last year, the PTO opted to hold a Math-a-Thon, raising about $5,000.

If a student’s family member or friend made a donation, the donor was able to write a message directly to the student and it would show up on the virtual Read-a-Thon page.

The money raised — $32,957 and still increasing — will go to the Hall-Dale Elementary School PTO. according to school officials.

“It goes completely back to the school, and the PTO helps provide annual money for teachers and classrooms,” Rauch said. “We have annual enrichment programs. We had Chris Van Dusen come a couple years ago.”

Van Dusen is an author and illustrator who lives in Camden.

Rauch said the money could be used for a variety of purposes, including playground equipment or small grants for teachers to buy school supplies or take students on field trips.

She added the PTO did not expect this year’s Read-a-Thon to raise nearly so much money.


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