Green Island Reads: Encouraging students to read with pizzas

GREEN ISLAND — Heatly School in Green Island celebrates its reading program with students in pods.

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Now, there’s a new program called Green Island Reads! Special Ed teacher and children’s book author Pete Mason came up with the idea.

“The pods are going so well, this is going to encourage reading outside of school,” he said. “This is only for books kids read outside of school, not what they’re doing in class or in the pods or afterschool program, it’s whatever they do on their own to encourage more reading.”

The Heatly school library is full of books ready to be discovered.

The idea is to build lifelong readers.

For students PreK through sixth, for every three books they read, they get a coupon for a free personal pizza. After 10 books, they also get a pizza coupon.

“It’s exciting,” said Dr. Mario Fernandez, Heatly principal. “I think it’s part of that whole process of getting students to look at printed material and encourage them to have fun with it. Sit, eat, read.”

It’s been very successful in its first few weeks.

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“How many kids we were celebrating, actually celebrating, when it came time to hand out awards for the pizzas. I mean, we had a ton of kids coming up and I was like, I think this is working, at least it’s encouraging students to embrace reading,” said Dr. Fernandez.

The free pies come from Spindle City Pizza on Ontario Street in Cohoes. Its owners are actually hoping they will have to give out a lot of freebies.

The pizza place opened in October, and has made a name for itself not just for pizza, but also its additional gluten-free menu.

They bought new pans just for this program.

Why give away so much for free? The owners say it’s a good fit. What’s better than feeding kids, body and brain?

“With everything else they’re doing with the reading programs, the pods, everything else that they’ve got going on, this seemed to fit very well with what they were looking to do as a school, and it definitely helped us become a better neighbor in the community,” said owner Ryan Hotaling.

So far, they’ve given out dozens of free pizzas in just two weeks or so.

“We already have, we certainly are, and the more the merrier. That means we’re reading more books. We’re getting out there and helping to really train these kids to read books and be more active in their education,” said Hotaling. “It’s making pizza but it’s a lot more than that.”