Crocker Farm students meet reading challenge, send principal to rooftop

AMHERST — Any casual observer who drove up to Crocker Farm Elementary School on Monday afternoon may have at first seen the presence of a fire truck in the parking lot as a troubling sign.

But as excited students streamed out into the parking lot in anticipation, it was clear that this was a celebration.

The initiative was the brainchild of reading teacher Stephanie Joyce, who wanted to think of a way to motivate students to read over the summer. Her answer was to pose a challenge to Crocker Farm students and their administration: read a total of 50,000 pages over summer break and Principal Derek Shea will climb the school’s roof.

That’s exactly what Shea did on Monday, making his way across the ladder to the joy of the entire school looking on.

“The kids were so excited,” Joyce said of the students’ reaction when, on Friday, an all-school assembly was held to announce they had reached their 50,000-page collective summer goal. “They each had a piece in it.”

The “Raise the Roof on Our Summer Reading!” initiative was an all-summer affair. In June, the school held its annual book swap, and every student got to bring home several books. Educators photographed each student with their books, and those “summer shelfies” were used as motivation. So too were the postcards educators sent to students over the summer to spur their reading.

Students recorded their page totals over the summer, and brought those logs back to school to be counted toward the school’s goal.

When students returned to school, there was still time left in the summer, so pre-K and kindergarten students read with their teachers during class, contributing some 3,000 pages themselves.

“Reading and writing are the most important things you’ll do in life,” Shea told the Gazette shortly before ascending to the roof. “We want kids to realize reading is fun. It’s an important endeavor, but it’s a fun endeavor.”

Crocker Farm students were certainly having fun on Monday watching Shea. They chanted “Mr. Shea!” and “We did it!” from the school’s parking lot, looking on as Shea and Amherst Fire Capt. John Ingram climbed high into the air.

Farah Ameen, who has a daughter in the 3rd grade, was one of the adult onlookers. Ameen said she definitely mentioned the roof idea to her daughter over the summer.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to send Mr. Shea to the roof,’” Ameen said. “The kids got a kick out of it.”

“On the roof! On the roof!” was the chant as Shea climbed off the ladder. He reached down and grabbed a sign, which he showed to the kids as the cheered in applause:

“We did it! 57,327.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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