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Big Al rolls into town to promote reading at elementary schools

Big Al dances with the Clark Elementary faculty, staff and students Friday to a song that promotes reading. Mascot for the University of Alabama's football team, Big AL appeared at both Clark and Payne Elementary School Friday to encourage the students to read regularly. (Sarah Robinson | Times-Journal)

Big Al dances with the Clark Elementary faculty, staff and students Friday to a song that promotes reading. Mascot for the University of Alabama’s football team, Big AL appeared at both Clark and Payne Elementary School Friday to encourage the students to read regularly. (Sarah Robinson | Times-Journal)

Big Al had a busy day Friday as he traveled to two Selma City Schools to promote reading.

Both Payne and Clark Elementary School invited the Alabama Crimson Tide’s mascot to appear at reading program kickoff events.

With one in four Alabama residents functionally illiterate, Payne and Clark’s librarians felt it was vital they get students excited about reading.

“Reading is very important, because it determines their future to be able to read,” Payne Elementary librarian Ashley Plummer said. “It helps them become successful in life.”

Big Al started the afternoon with a trip to Payne Elementary cafeteria, where the schools cheerleading squad lead their new long-trunk friend in a cheer.

After dancing along with the squad, taking some pictures with the students and giving a few hugs, Big Al made his way to Clark Elementary to continue the reading fun.

After taking part in similar activities at Clark, special guests Selma City Councilwoman Angela Benjamin and Zaxby’s mascot Little Zach made an appearance at the school.

Benjamin read to the kids before Little Zach greeted them with hugs.

The day’s fun gave students an exciting start to their individual schools’ Accelerated Reading programs.

Payne and Clark Elementary students are rewarded for their literacy achievements.

Payne Elementary posts paper footballs with the names of readers on a poster designed to look like a football field.

The footballs closer to the inzone indicate the individuals taking the lead to become a winner for their grade level.

It all ties into Payne’s 2014-2015 “Going for the Goal” theme.

Clark Elementary, who also has an AR program, offers prizes to students who reach their reading goal. Prizes range from a t-shirt to an iPad, according to Clark library media specialist Jennifer Hyche.

The Zaxby’s located in Selma has even donated 520 kid’s meals coupon to the school, so it can award a coupon to those who reach their reading goal, Hyche said.

For Hyche, it’s essential the students have the opportunity to choose which library book they would like to read.

“A lot of boys want sports books. A lot of my girls want teen girl books,” Hyche said. “If I make them get a book, they aren’t going to read it. They have to have a choice.”