Law firm rewards students with new bicycles

Leslye Paz will ride into summer on a new pink bicycle.

A likely destination? The local library.

"I want to get a library card ... and keep reading books," said Leslye, a fourth-grader at Irving Elementary School in north Wichita. "I like how reading makes you feel and helps you learn."

Today is the last day of school for about 50,000 Wichita students. Many of them probably can't wait to sleep in, watch cartoons, play with friends or leap through sprinklers.

Fifteen youngsters from Irving Elementary will start their summer vacation with new bikes, a reward for reading at least 1 million words this school year as part of the school's Accelerated Reader program.

The bikes were donated by Wilson, Lee, Gurney and Hess, a local law firm.

Leslye, 10, shattered the milestone, becoming the first student in the school's history to read 2 million words in one school year.

After an awards ceremony in the school gymnasium, Leslye stood beside her new bike, a "Pretty in Pink" model she chose because "it's the girliest one," she said.

She couldn't remember how many books she read this year.

"A lot," she said, smiling.

She read the first three Harry Potter books, several from the Geronimo Stilton series and Meg Cabot's "Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls." She read every day, usually for at least an hour, and participated in an after-school reading club every Tuesday and Thursday.

"I just like to read," Leslye said. "I even like sad parts that make you want to cry."

Accelerated Reader, or "AR," is a computer-based testing program intended to gauge how well students comprehend what they read. Each book on a school's AR list is labeled with a reading level and number of points, based on its length and difficulty.

After reading a book, students take a multiple-choice test on the computer. If they get all the questions right, they get all the points.

Attorney Steve Wilson said his law firm started donating bikes to Irving Elementary as reading prizes five years ago.

About 98 percent of the school's 540 children receive free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator of poverty. About 90 percent are Hispanic, and many do not speak English when they start school.

"We want kids to read because reading is knowledge. It's the foundation for everything," Wilson said.

"These kids have earned this.... They do all the work."

The first year Wilson's firm donated bikes, only one student met the goal. Each year, the number has risen.

Besides Leslye, students who reached the 1-million-word mark and received bikes Monday are: Alex Lopez, Hector Garcia, Miguel Sanchez, Daniel Jurado, Julian Ibarra, David Solis, Miranda Pineda, Erika Gonzalez, Yasmine Perez, Elisa Uriarte, Giselle Guerrero, Sarah Arguelles, Anabel Solis and Kasondra Bakker.