Reading a book or e-book while riding an exercise bike may be one way for adults to sneak some reading time into a busy schedule, but what about kids? Elementary school counselor Scott Ertl was reading and riding when this very thought struck him. He figured the kids at his North Carolina school would love the novelty of the idea—and they’d get some exercise and build up their literacy skills while they were at it. Ertl’s school principal supported the idea, and so the Read and Ride program was born. Read on for more details, plus tips on how to set up a Read and Ride program at your kids’ school.
The idea behind the Read and Ride program is simple: a class comes into a designated bike room in the school and has 15 to 20 minutes of riding time. No talking is allowed, just simply quiet reading and the sound of wheels spinning. Every child gets a bike, and everyone can ride at their own pace: there’s no picking teams, no competition, just 20 minutes of self-paced exercise for mind and body. Kids have responded so well to previous programs that some teachers have also set up bikes in their classroom, to be used as a reward for students who have finished their classwork ahead of time. Ertl’s original program used time in the bike room as a reward for participation in daily learning activities.
The Read and Ride program does not have official funding, however: it’s all very grassroots, with each school taking the idea and making it their own. Nonetheless, the results reported by classes setting up their own program have been very impressive. At one Arkansas school, a class that participated in the program for three 20-minute sessions a week showed an average growth of benchmarked literacy scores of 113 points. Another class with the same teacher but that didn’t participate at all showed an improvement of 79 points. Two other classes, each with a different teacher, showed an improvement of 118 points for the class that participated and an improvement of 71 points for the class that did not.
Collecting enough bikes is probably the trickiest part of setting up a Read and Ride program. The program’s website has plenty of practical suggestions for this, such as approaching people advertising stationary bikes for sale on Craigslist and asking them to gift their bike as a tax-deductible donation to your school. Other ideas include asking local businesses to sponsor a bike, and simply asking parents if they or any of their friends and family have an unused bike at home. Reading material can be sourced from the school library, or again, put out a call for donations of educational magazines and age-appropriate books.
The Read and Ride website has plenty of other useful tips for setting rules for use of the bike room, how to manage bike maintenance, and how to get your school and local community behind the program. Scott Ertl’s contact details are also provided, should your school want any advice or to share your success story.
Photos via Read and Ride