Inaugural Challenge Gets West Deptford Middle Schoolers Reading

Dozens of sixth- and seventh-graders took up the challenge of reading at least 40 books this school year.

When it came to reading last year, seventh-grader TiAsjha Veney picked up a book only twice when she didn’t have to.

This year, after her teachers challenged a group of students to read as much as they could, Veney did a little bit better.

Forty-one books better, in fact.

“As I read one, I wanted to read the next one, and then the next one, and it just kept going on and on,” she said. “I would have never thought I would read that many books.”

Veney was one of dozens of seventh-graders who took on the challenge, the first of its kind from teachers Melissa Thurston and Beth Seher, to read at least 40 books.

Most got to the magic number, and plenty got higher, into the 50s and 60s, and a handful took it to the stratosphere.

Becky Neely, who racked up 85 books over the course of the year, said she took on a lot of historical fiction and realistic fiction, and would sometimes plow through 10 books in a week.

“I was just trying to get as much as I could,” she said.

She has even loftier aims for the summer, with a goal in the hundreds—forget 85 books in a school year, Neely said she might tackle that many in a single week.

“I have a lot of books to read,” she said.

Thurston called the program, which was also extended to some sixth-graders to try to get them to jump-start their peers on a similar challenge next year, a rousing success.

“We really believe the reading is its own reward,” she said.

That said, they did have a party at the end of the school year for all their readers, and made plans to extend it through the summer via programs at Barnes & Noble in Deptford, as well as an ongoing online session.

One student who will be trying to keep things going throughout the summer is August Donahue, who’s set himself a goal of 25 books a week.

Like his classmates’ experience, that’s a huge departure from a year ago, when he said he read at most three books.

“I did not read a book I didn’t have to,” he said.

Now, Donahue’s a veteran reader, having overachieved what he thought he was capable of, going through 51 books over the course of the year, including a number of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. While The Hound of the Baskervilles might seem like heavy reading for a seventh-grader, Donahue said mystery stories hold plenty of appeal for him.

“It was an easy thing for me to dive into,” he said.

Students who participated in the inaugural challenge:


Sydney D’Angelo Gabi Ammirato Brieanna Sanchez Shelby Monaghan Lauren Hulmes Brittany Schmidt Kyra D’Costa Alexa Escobar Jordan Clark Ryan Ward Hailey Albinson Chloe Senatore Nick Kerr TiAsjha Veney Trisha Baud Alyssa Thomas-Kulbusaukas Alexis Vincente Mia Wilson Mansi Patel Steven Bobo Caitlin Thorson Aubrey Gelisanga Amanda Patch August Donahue Abby Fenton Zachary Kaminski Julia Cameli Woo Lee Dale Christman Anthony DiCarlo Jimmy MacMichael Becky Neely Dylan Jones Robin Hill Maddie Bennett Kayla Ferreira Vincent Tate Gillian Purvenas MaryJo Frye
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