Here's a twist on encouraging children to read: At Hillview Elementary in the Lancaster Central School District, pupils who read books can win a ride to school -- in a fire truck.
The first lucky riders Monday morning were Ryan LaRue, Madelyn Moran, Thomas Dombrowski and Laura Pacanowski.
Bowmansville Volunteer Firefighters Mark J. Lawniczak and Dan Curtis drove a pumper to the children's homes. Moms, dads and grandparents with cameras, and brothers, sisters and neighbors with wide eyes, gathered in each neighborhood. Library media specialist Jackie Donaldson also went in the truck.
"It was awesome," Curtis said.
"I think we had as much fun as they did," added Lawniczak.
One pupil from each grade, kindergarten through third grade, was picked for the ride. All the children who participate in the Parents as Reading Partners program, which school officials say is virtually everyone in the school, were eligible for the special "Read to Ride" event. Their names were put in a hat, and the winners were picked randomly. Names will be picked once a month for the honor.
"We thought it would be a great way to motivate children to read, especially boys," said Principal Kathleen Knauth.
But it wasn't teachers who came up with the idea, it was Lawniczak, a former pupil at Hillview.
Lawniczak, 22, said he remembers reading incentives when he was in school, and the most exciting prize he recalls is a gift certificate to Pizza Hut.
"I thought, 'what would make this more exciting,' " said Lawniczak, who is getting his master's degree in student personnel administration at Buffalo State College. "I just thought this sounds cool."
He approached the school, including reading specialist Mary Georger, who was a teacher at Hillview when Lawniczak went to school.
"It is so exciting to have him come back," she said.
It was the first fire truck ride for second-grader Thomas Dombrowski, whose friends saw him get off the truck at the school.
"I told them it was very fun," he said.
So, is the incentive working?
"Every single kid had a giant glow on their face when we picked them up," Lawniczak said.