St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Cowboys help kids explore new frontiers in reading

A cattle rancher and a teen rodeo performer offer a leg up to a school's Accelerated Reader program.

Published September 29, 2005

Floral City Elementary School students recently had a rootin', tootin' kickoff for this year's Accelerated Reader program. During the event, featuring real cowboys, students were encouraged to keep in mind this year's theme: To Explore New Frontiers - Read.

Accelerated Reader, commonly known as AR, promotes reading on an individual level. When a student reads a book, he or she then takes a comprehension test on a computer and the child is awarded points. Points are rewarded in a variety of ways throughout participating schools.

At Floral City, Accelerated Reader was highlighted in the school's outdoor pavilion with presentations by longtime local rancher Valentine Rooks and high school rodeo performer Dakota Shipp.

Rooks, dressed in Wranglers, boots and cowboy hat, described the life of a rancher and demonstrated how to crack a whip. He told the children about early Florida Crackers and how they earned the name with their whips. He said his mama knew when to get dinner out when she heard the cracking whips getting close to home.

Rooks also had some of his ranch tools with him. He had what he called a "hot shot," or cattle prod, to coax unmotivated cows to move along. He had a saddle, a horn cutting tool, a branding iron, a dewormer and cow spray to discourage flies from tormenting the cattle.

Dakota, 17, is a locally raised, homeschooled student who flew from New York, where he was performing in a high school rodeo show. He plans to become a professional in the rodeo circuit when he turns 18 in December. He came to Floral City with a horse and wowed the children with lasso tricks.

The children were divided into two groups: prekindergarten through second grade and third grade through fifth grades. At the end of the programs the students were invited to put the skills they had learned in their physical education classes into practice with a grand finale Electric Slide dance.

Accelerated Reader is revisited throughout the school year as students reach nine-week reading goals.

The Western theme was coordinated through the efforts of Floral City's three Title I reading teachers: Karen Wright, Dotti Christiansen and Beverly Davis. The Title I program is federally funded and provides extra reading help to targeted students and general support to classroom teachers.

[Last modified September 29, 2005, 01:19:16]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters