PARIS – Students are revved up for reading at Paris Elementary School.

Fueled by pint-size race cars, race car tires, pictures, helmets, safety harnesses and more throughout the school, the students are ready to read.

“The whole point is to get kids reading again,” said Principal Jane Fahey of the annual six-week thematic program. Last year the students rocked around the clock with a 1950s theme. This year, the race car theme sets the tone for the program.

“My dad races cars,” said 7-year-old Austin Sanborn, who said he is particularly excited about the reading program theme.

Fahey said the success of the reading program is evidenced in the school’s state reading tests scores, which have improved annually.

The program will run six weeks and includes prize giveaways, such as a chance to ride in a pace car at Oxford Plains Speedway and visits from well-known race car drivers including NASCAR driver Ricky Craven, who is flying up from North Carolina later this month to speak to the students about the importance of reading.

Craven, who was born and raised in Newburgh, began his racing career at the age of 15, winning the 1991 TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway and going on to tour with NASCAR in 1989. He has been active in raising funds to help Maine children and with other charitable events.

The school’s PTO was instrumental in assisting with motivational posters, banners and race memorabilia seen throughout the school.

Fahey said each grade level has established reading goals. Students will have punch cards to record how many minutes or books they read or for those younger children who do not read yet to record the amount of time someone reads to them.

Prizes will then be awarded periodically as the students fill up their punch cards.

Besides 24 students getting to ride in a pace car, one student will get to drop the green flag at a Oxford Plains Speedway race.

“The kids are pumped,” she said.

The project was designed to promote independent reading.

“I’ve even seen kids reading in line in the cafeteria,” Fahey said.

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