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Nothing Is Better for Thee Than Me

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Last September, Principal Gail Thompson challenged her 220 kindergarten through 6th-grade pupils at the Doniphan (Neb.) Elementary School to read a total of 10,000 books in six months under the national "Book It'' reading program.

Since that meant each student would have to read nearly two books a week, the bet seemed a safe one, she says.

But her students, envisioning a delicious victory, raced through the challenge in only five and a half months.

To the loser remained a less appetizing task: making good on the bargain she had fecklessly struck.

And so, one day recently teachers and students enjoyed a hot-oatmeal breakfast while Ms. Thompson, garbed in a 1920's-style bathing suit, hat, and goggles, immersed herself in an old-fashioned bathtub filled with the gooey stuff.

As part of the bargain, the spirited principal was to comply with students' requests that she read to them while wading in the concoction for four hours.

But she says that "most of the kids were too busy laughing or asking questions, so I didn't do too much reading.''

Though her "soak'' delighted everyone, including disbelieving parents who had come to watch, "the main thing,'' she says, "was that students got reading, they found they liked it, and they are still reading.''JW

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