ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico children could win a trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom or ride in a hot air balloon with Gov. Susana Martinez under a program that state officials hope will encourage students to read when they aren't in school.
The governor announced several contests on Wednesday that offer prizes to kids who read at least six books this summer. Children who read a dozen books, and in some instances write short essays, will be eligible for top prizes, such as an expense-paid family trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. Winners of the grand prizes are selected at random.
The goal is to prevent a drop in the reading proficiency of students during the summer months when they're not attending school. Most of the contests are for children ages 7-10, who are entering the 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade in the next school year. One contest is broader and will allow children from preschool through the 5th grade to participate.
"Learning to read well at an early age is critical to academic success and, ultimately, to success in the workplace and in life," Martinez said in a statement.
The state is partnering with private and public organizations, including the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, the Albuquerque Isotopes and the cities of Albuquerque, Ruidoso, Red River, Socorro.
The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce are providing the Disney trip.
Students who read the minimum amount of books will receive certificates from the governor or others, such as the mayor of Albuquerque, as well as other prizes such as bookmarks, backpacks or a college sports poster.
Among the top prizes for winning students is the hot air balloon ride with the governor, family vacations to Ruidoso and Red River, a tour of a movie or television set in the state, meeting the coaches of the UNM and NMSU men's or women's basketball teams and free tickets to games. Other winners will throw out a ceremonial first pitch at an Isotopes baseball game or serve as a junior zookeeper at Albuquerque's zoo.
Public Education Department: http://ped.state.nm.us/ped/ReadingChallenge/index.html