There are very few kids who can tell the story of the day they rode to school on a fire truck.
For students in the first to fourth grades in Mt. Laurel, however, they have a chance to do just that with the return of Get Fired Up for Literacy.
Entering its fifth year in the school district, Get Fired Up for Literacy is a reading contest that features a grand prize unlike any other, a ride to school on a fire truck.
Mt. Laurel Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Burnett conceived the idea after hearing about a similar program in the Midwest.
“He had brought it up and it sounded like a win-win situation,” Mt. Laurel Library Special Project Manager Julie Binger said. “It just builds in popularity every year.”
Since its start, the program has grown each year with more kids participating. The number of kids reading last year nearly doubled from 2011 and continues to increase.
“We usually have a couple hundred kids every year,” Binger said. “Each year that goes by there is a slight increase in participation.”
The program is not about reading the most books; it’s instead meant to encourage children to spend time reading. Participants in the contest will log how many minutes are spent reading. Winners from each class in the six Mt. Laurel elementary schools will be determined by how many minutes the children read.
The grand prize winner will be selected among the class winners. Each class winner will receive a backpack, and every participant who reads at least 60 minutes receives a certificate.
The prospect of riding on a fire truck has greatly encouraged participation, according to Binger.
“It’s just to encourage them,” she said. “The chance to actually get to ride on a fire truck is the greatest motivator ever.”
Binger said the Fired Up for Literacy program is not all that much different from the library’s summer reading program, but the grand prize is a lot more enticing for children.
In addition, because it takes place during the school year, it is much easier for the library to cross-promote the program with the schools. Teachers and principals have gotten more involved in encouraging and reminding their students to read over the winter break.
Binger said the cooperation among the library, fire department and schools has made the program so successful.
“This is my favorite project that we work on every year,” she said. “Working with the fire department is so easy. Every year, we’re trying to tweak it better and they’re always receptive to everything we want to try.”
The contest will kick off on Saturday, Dec. 21 and continue through Sunday, Jan. 5. Binger said the library will put a button on their home page on Dec. 21 to register, but it is not necessary.
Children can simply use the reading log on the letter they brought home from school. Reading logs can also be downloaded from the Mt. Laurel Public Schools home page.
Participants can return their completed logs to school by Monday, Jan. 6, with the winners being announced the following week. Binger expects the grand prize fire truck ride will take place sometime in mid-February.