West Elementary students in Knoxville crossed the finish line for their “Racing to Read” program on Friday with fun, race-themed activities.

The initiative for the 2018-19 school year was to improve reading skills for students in preschool through second grade. Beginning in April, students partnered with one another to complete reading routines for the “Racing to Read” initiative. Students who showed impressive participation in reading were invited to “Victory Lane” for a photo and were awarded a small racing flag.

Instructional coach Kim Collins stated students who have met benchmark requirements in reading has increased by 5 percent this year, and overall growth has continued to increase in recent years.

“Today, I’ve already read four chapters of my book,” said first-grader Olivia Ducey, age 7. Ducey said she loves reading and will continue to read throughout the summer.

Students celebrated their growth by racing classmates on rolling scooters, getting temporary tattoos by high school cheerleaders and knocking balls off of targets with water guns. Drivers Ryan Leavitt and RJ Johnson also made an appearance with their race cars, and each student received a free pass to the Knoxville Races.

Students were also given the opportunity to ask Leavitt and Johnson questions, which included what happens when they run out of gas and how many races they’ve won.

Collins is thankful for the support the school has received for the program from the Knoxville Hall of Fame, the Knoxville Raceway, Slideways and the many drivers who have made personal donations.

“It’s been so great for our students,” said Collins. “They’ve been working really hard this year.”

Emily Hawk can be reached at ehawk@pellachronicle.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-628-3882.