“I dressed her in blues and browns,” said Burt, the principal at Lena Juniper Elementary School in Sparks. “The joke started that I hated pink and now it has just kept and it’s the big joke that Mr. Burt hates pink.”
So why was he seen at work April 29 dressed in a pink collared shirt and pink trousers with his hair dyed bright?
It was because Burt challenged the school’s 542 students to read 100,000 pages in the month of April. They read more than 116,000 pages and were rewarded by seeing their principal suffer.
“When I told them I challenged them to read 100,000 pages and that I would wear pink and dye my hair pink, it was a big deal because I truly hate pink,” Burt said. “The whole idea — to have a ‘pink-out’ and pink hair, pink shoes, pink socks — it is disgusting, but I’ll do it for my kids.”
Each classroom also was challenged to read a minimum of 5,000 pages and if they reached that minimum, Burt gave them sandwiches as a way of saying thanks for working hard. From kindergarten to sixth grade, each student had to have a teacher or parent signature indicating that they read the requisite number of pages.
“The fun part about reading is it is a skill they will have for the rest of their lives,” Burt said. “With students, there is a balance between work and play and if you give them the opportunity, they are going to want to play instead of work. So we infuse fun and challenge so they will step up and meet those challenges.”
Michelle Nixon, a librarian at Lena Juniper, said it is important to make reading week fun so students will enjoy it.
“We don’t want it to be a chore, we want them to love reading and to know it is a lifelong thing they will do,” Nixon said. “Every part of their life will be reading, whether it is getting a job or reading to their own children, so making it fun just makes it easier for them to read.”
Reading week is a district-wide event, but Burt said he decided to extend it to a reading month because it is so important. This is the 11th annual reading month at Lena Juniper Elementary.
“Reading week is about fun, promoting reading and a challenge like mine is to get them to read a lot more than they ever thought they would just on their own,” Burt said. “As young people, sometimes they don’t see the need to work hard all of the time and part of the fun is giving them a challenge or some way of reaching a higher level than they would just on their own.”
Several students wore pink dresses, shirts and pants, used temporary pink hair dye and wore other wacky clothes in celebration of the “pink-out.”
“Dressing up helps kids feel a part of our school,” Burt said. “Kids being connected to a school and knowing they belong to a school and something bigger than themselves is important. They also work harder so it’s like an extended family.”