By Dave Ongie
When Fairmont principal Carol McGill looks back at this school year, she’ll remember the friendship she struck up with Ella Goodman.
McGill and Goodman became reading buddies very quickly after the start of school, and McGill – a self-described “rabid reader” – soon found herself struggling to finish books before Goodman. Goodman ripped through the Harry Potter series, the Secret Benedict Society series and pretty much any other book she could get her hands on.
Not bad for a third grader.
“I just like the adventures, how they’re so exciting and how they always come to a good end,” Goodman said with a shrug of the shoulders.
Last year a third-grader named Dylan Brown smashed the existing school record for Accelerated Reader points by becoming the first Fairmont student to hit the 1,000-point plateau. This year Goodman broke that mark before Christmas break, and McGill rewarded her reading buddy by presenting her with three handpicked books from the book fair.
“It was really hard because she had read hundreds of books,” McGill said. “So I tried to pick books that I just finished or I knew would be in her interest area. She usually loves what I pick out.”
By the spring, McGill was scouring the school for books Goodman had yet to read. Occasionally the call went out to the Indian Trail library for reading material, and more than one trip was made to Books-A-Million to procure a book Goodman was interested in.
When Goodman surpassed the 2,000-point milestone, it earned her entire class a trip to Wallabies to bounce around the play area and eat some cake. Needless to say, the trip made Goodman a hero to her classmates.
“They were all thanking me,” Goodman said.
Heading into the final day and a half of school, Goodman has right around 2,500 points. She credited her parents for reading to her when she was little and cited her friendship with her principal as a driving force behind her achievement.
“She’s been really supportive, and it’s helped me a lot,” Goodman said.
While Goodman may spend a fair amount of time with her nose in a book, she hardly fits the mold of the stereotypical “bookworm.” She’s a star soccer player, and as McGill witnessed while watching Goodman participate in a Girls on the Run event, she runs about as fast as she reads.
“I thought I might have to get her a t-shirt that says, ‘I’m a reader and a runner,’ ” McGill said.
As Goodman prepares for her final year at Fairmont, McGill said she looks forward to continuing their friendship. She’ll caution Goodman against trying to break her own record next year, but that will be hard to do given Goodman’s competitive nature.
The challenge of the spelling bee will likely command some of Goodman’s attention. She’ll be eligible as a fourth grader, and McGill is expecting big things.
“Every year our top speller is usually our top reader,” McGill said.
By the time Goodman leaves for Indian Trail, McGill may have another reading buddy on her hands. Ella’s little sister Nora has already been bitten by the reading bug, and the outspoken kindergartener showed her enthusiasm for literacy by giving Tennessee’s First Lady Crissy Haslam and Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen a tour of the reading center in her classroom last fall.
That does McGill’s heart good, because developing a burning desire to read as a child opens a wide range of wonderful possibilities.
“Finding a student with that kind of fire to read, you just want to go, ‘Oh, what can she attain?,'” McGill said. “It’s a habit now.
“You and I have a reading compulsion,” McGill said to Goodman. “We’re compulsive readers.”