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Assigning Reading Exercises, Literally

Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, N.C., has created a unique program to promote reading and exercise by having students do both at the same time, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. Through the "Read and Ride" program, students exercise on donated stationary bicycles while reading a book or magazine. Started in 2009 by school counselor Scott Ertl, the program conducts 15-minute reading and riding classes for students in the trailer behind the school.

Ertl told the paper that since the program is voluntary, the impact on students is difficult to quantify. The school has not gathered data on whether students' test scores have gone up, or drawn any conclusions as to its effect on health. In addition, the counselor says that while some teachers praise the concept, not all of them embrace the idea of having to use class time to let their students participate in the program.

But some teachers appear to appreciate the idea. "So many (students) associate reading with sitting at their desk," said teacher Katie Garcia. "It kind of opens their eyes that they can pull out a book and read anywhere."

According to the Journal, other schools that have taken up similar reading and cycling programs include Naperville Central High School in Illinois and Russell Jones Elementary School in Rogers, Ark. The paper notes that Russell saw more growth in their reading benchmark tests among classes who participated in the program than those who did not. A similar program in a Canadian school showed both academic and health gains.

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