BARSTOW • Fourth grader Osiris Hernandez and first grader Cassandra Hendricks sat side-by-side inside Skyline North Elementary School's library Tuesday afternoon.
While other students were playing outside, Hernandez, Hendricks and a handful of other students were reading books aloud during recess.
Hendricks read three books — with a little help from her older tutor — finishing "Cows in the Garden" right as the bell rang.
The Teddy Bear Reading program, where fourth-graders pair up with first-grade students and help them practice reading once a week during recess, is one of the literacy programs that helped Skyline earn the Exemplary Reading Program Award for California from the International Reading Association.
The association, which covers schools in the United States and Canada, gives the award to one school per state or province each year.
This year, Skyline was one of 18 schools in the U.S. and Canada to get named.
Skyline is the first elementary school in San Bernardino County to receive the award.
Literacy program coordinator Terry Rogers said Skyline has focused on getting parents involved by providing family reading nights.
Once a month, students and their parents gather in the cafeteria, reading books, playing games and getting free books provided by the school's parent teacher organization.
Past family reading nights have included themes like book bingo or pajama parties, said Rogers.
The school also participates in California Reads, a statewide reading programs where students get pencils or bookmarks for every 360 minutes, or six hours, of logged reading time and a medal for 3,000 minutes, or 50 hours.
Judy Miranda, vice president of the California Reading Association, was one of three officials who visited Skyline in Feb. 2008, observing students, staff and programs at the school.
Miranda said she remembered hearing students get excited about reading as their teacher picked a book out of a pile, saying, "Oh, I read that and I loved it."
"It was not confined to a particular program or a particular period that children went to," said Miranda.
Skyline Principal Kim Barilone credits her staff for motivating students to read.
"We're a very reading type of staff," said Barilone. "When you love to read, you give that gift, that love of reading, to kids," she said.
Katrina Espinoza, library and media assistant and parent of three Skyline students, said she's seen her first-grade son improve his reading abilities.
"He wasn't that interested in reading [before]," said Espinoza. Now, he's past the first grade reading level, she said.
Past award winners have included elementary schools in Sacramento, Riverside and Ventura.
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