Riverside students rock the vote

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2008

Youngsters cast ballots for book award


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – As the presidential primary elections heated up across the country, third through eighth grade students lined up to cast their votes at electronic voting booths in the Riverside Academy library in Reserve.

The student’s votes, although cast with the help of the latest in voting technology, were not for the next presidential nominees, but for the Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award (LYRCA).

Each year since 1999 select schools across the state vote from two lists of books, one for grades 3-5 and another for 6-8, that are compiled from open suggestions to the State Library of Louisiana.

Students received the list of the 15 books that appeared on each ballot early in the process allowing participating classes to become familiar with the books through class work and exercises.

The program was proven to be successful enough at Riverside Academy that it was made a part of the school’s accelerated reading program.

To prepare for the vote each student in Odette Vicknair’s fourth grade read at least one book and completed an oral report and crayon drawing on their story.

“They had to discuss the book out loud,” said Vicknair. “I think it is wonderful. Absolutely.”

Stacy Delatte, 8th grade teacher, bought all the books on the list for her class.

“They’ve been reading maniacs,” said Delatte.

Principal Heidi Tomeny-Duhe cited her own daughters excitement as proof of the vote’s effect on students.

“My daughter has been talking about it the last couple of weeks,” said Tomeny-Duhe. “She woke up today and said ‘Mom we finally get to vote!’”

It was unclear if the students understood that the voting booths, rather than just tallying the student’s favorite book, served a few more purposes.

“In order to increase voter involvement the State of Louisiana decided to start young, and that is why we have these machines here,” said Librarian Carol Miles.

Students were taught how to use the voting booths by employees of the Louisiana State Department who are also responsible for the proper functioning of the machines during real elections.

“You have to program the ballots and test the machines so we can catch potential problems,” said state department employee Travis Meiner.

Here, just as in many votes, some voters were more informed on their options than others. Some students read as many as five of the books on the list.

Third grader Seth Fey went with his gut though, saying he would vote for “A Kick in the Head.”

“I haven’t read it,” said Fey. “But it sounds good.”

The winner of the vote will be announced later this year.