Inman Elementary School fourth-grader Brock Sivils clutched the basketball tightly in his hand.

Inman Elementary School fourth-grader Brock Sivils clutched the basketball tightly in his hand.

His team, made up of fourth-grade through sixth-grade students, was down by one with little time on the clock. It had been a close game, and now in double overtime, it was all up to him.

His was the winning basket for the 24-23 win, a nail-biter game of students versus teachers and faculty last week. The matchup was part of a rewards system the school uses to encourage reading.

“The kids really, really want to play against the teachers,” Principal Paul Erickson said. “When you're looking at 11- to 12-year-olds, that’s a good way to light a fire under them. They’ll do anything to show off for their teacher.”

Fourth- through sixth-grade students who achieve at least 100 Accelerated Reading points before spring break are eligible to participate. Although not allowed to play, younger students who achieved this goal are allowed special seating and shooting privileges at half time. The points are achieved by reading a certain number of books, which vary in points depending on difficulty level.

Other awards during the year included cutting the principal’s tie, water balloon fights and planning a school lunch menu.

The Accelerated Reader basketball game, however, began four years ago and has become a highlight for many. The scores always are close, as the high school student referees call unnecessary fouls and a technical on the teachers. Some are even escorted off the court.

For sixth-grader Michael Bledsoe, one of his favorite moments was when his mother, a teacher, faked a dramatic injury.

“It was fun and competitive,” he said. “I think a lot of kids like doing that. It’s fun to play against the teachers that teach you.”

For Sivils, his highlight was the game-winning shot.

“The game was pretty awesome,” he said. “I looked forward to it for two years, and it was really spectacular to play for the first time.”

Third-grade teacher Cindy DeMoss said the Accelerated Reading rewards system works well to motivate the students to read. Rather than tangible treats, they are centered around spending time with a teacher or participating in an activity.

“To me, it’s more meaningful,” she said. “It’s another part of relationships built at this school.”

Both Bledsoe and Sivils said these rewards encouraged them to read more.

“They’re pretty self-motivated and really good at setting goals for themselves,” DeMoss said. “That’s a life-long thing. I think that's really important.”

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