Mrs. Mulder Woodrow Wilson Primary School

By WEEK Producer

October 13, 2010 Updated Oct 14, 2010 at 10:25 PM CDT

Reading is one of the most challenging skills for young kids to learn. It is also one of the most important.

Woodrow Wilson Primary School in Peoria has made improving reading comprehension a priority.

Fourth grader Alonzo Hood admits he didn't always like to read.

"I didn't really like it, but I grew to like it over time," said 9-year-old Alonzo.

His teacher Carmen Gwillim says the the web-based program, Accelerated Reader has made all the difference for students. Students like Alonzo have read 13 books already this year.

"Every nine weeks I can take a test and see that they improved. They only way they're going to improve is by practice and they get to practice with books they enjoy," said Gwillim.

The school's librarian, Mona Mulder, says District 150 does not fund the $1,500 Accelerated Reading program. Instead, the teachers raise the money themselves. Mulder applied for an HOI 19 News and CEFCU One Class At A Time $1,000 grant to help pay for the program, and she won.

"I am really surprised, this is awesome," said Mulder as we presented her with the check unannounced.

She says the program offers online comprehension tests for all 10,000 books in the library, allowing the students to read virtually any book they can find in within their grade level. Before they could only choose from the 4,000 approved AR books.

"The kids can come and choose, they can have two books now because I have enough, they don't have to put a book back on the shelf they want to read because it isn't AR," said Mulder.

Gwillim says the programs doesn't embarrass students who read below their grade level.

"No one knows what the other child's reading level is, all they get to see is that they're progressing," said Gwillim, who created a football field on the wall. Once each student reaches their personal goal, their football advances toward the end zone.

"Most people have made their goal, some are still a little behind but we believe they can catch up if they read enough," said Alonzo, who likes mystery books the most.

The students are rewarded with homework passes and parties once everyone scores a touchdown.

"I don't read for that, it is mostly for fun," said Alonzo.