Balloon launch celebrates end of school’s reading program

Margaret R. Brown Elementary School Assistant Principal Becky Davis led the countdown, and then orange and white balloons floated toward the blue sky and puffy clouds above.

Soon, they were all out of sight. In the future, though, the students may learn where they wind up.

That’s because each balloon had a card with the date and time of the launch and the address of the school, and each student wrote his or her first name and their teacher’s name on the back.

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Over the years, the tags have been returned from other states. In 2013, one came back from a horticulturist in South Carolina.

“They had fun with it and they took the balloon and took pictures of it all around his farm. It was really cool. It was on a blog,” said Bridget Longmeier, the school’s literacy coach. “That was probably the farthest I remember. They do announcements all year long (at school) of finding balloons and learning where they came from, how far they traveled.”

The 41st year of the school’s spring reading program culminated with the balloon launch.

For four weeks, the 629 students in kindergarten through fifth grade were encouraged to spend at least 10 minutes each week reading books of their choice and had their parents sign a piece of paper to turn in to their teacher.

At the end of each week, the students who read the most minutes in their class received a prize based on the theme “Brown has the scoop on reading.” Those included temporary tattoos, ice cream cone shooter toys, strawberry-scented pencils, erasers and more.

“We did an ice cream theme for an ILEARN parent night back in March, and we kind of continued with that ice cream theme,” Longmeier said. “We’ve never done ice cream (for the spring reading program). We thought that was just kind of a fun theme. We thought with summer coming up, that would be cool.”

Students who read at least 90 minutes in the past month received a balloon to launch May 14. If they were the top reader in their classroom, they released two balloons.

The students gathered in the school’s recess area on the south side of the building holding their balloons. They also wore colored T-shirts based on their grade — heather red for kindergarten, yellow for first grade, electric green for second grade, Carolina blue for third grade, orange for fourth grade and purple for fifth grade. The staff members wore coral shirts.

“Our shirts were designed and created by Seymour High School Owl Manufacturing, and they did a great job,” Longmeier said.

After the balloons were launched, students cooled off with Popsicles, and the top readers received an extra prize from toys left over from the Indiana Pacers’ visit to the school earlier in the year.

The total number of minutes read this year was 132,017.

“It’s just a fun way to get them reading at home on their own on things that are interesting to them,” Longmeier said of the program. “We’ve had so much testing lately with ILEARN and all of these standardized tests. We just want to get them reading.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s actually holding a book or reading a digital book. Any type of reading counts.

“Several of them are doing digital books, but they are still reading,” Longmeier said. “We’ve got some online libraries that our school provides. They may not be books, but articles. We have some free websites that they go on and do that, too.”

Second grader Yoselin Perez Mendez was the top reader in Lindsey Wetzel’s class.

She said she read books her teacher gave her and other books at home and school.

“We get to sit and read and learn words,” Perez Mendez said. “I learned my words better.”

Classmate Rylan Sutton also read a lot this past month. He took on the challenge of reading chapter books.

“There are different words, and it gives you more knowledge,” he said. “You learn all of the words, and you actually know how to speak them.”

With the balloon launch, Perez Mendez said it was fun to watch hers float away and join all of the other students’ balloons, and Sutton said it marked the end of a successful program.

“I was looking forward to it because of how good I’ve been doing in reading,” Sutton said. “It was satisfying.”

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Margaret R. Brown Elementary School recently wrapped up the 41st annual monthlong spring reading program. The school finished with a total of 132,017 minutes read.

The top readers in each class have been announced.

They are Juana Mateo, Yosgart Juarez Caballero, Alex Gomez, AvaLiegh Chadd, Petron Sebastian Pascual, Patience Stogdill, Yoselin Mateo Bartolome, Katia Sebastian Juan, Ava Lawson, Paisleigh Thurston, Yoselin Perez Mendez, Catarina Lorenzo, Tomas Bartolome, Valente Baltazar Diego, Yojanita Nicolas Bartolome, Miller Acton, Nikita Cox, Diego Sebastian Miguel, Eulalia Dieguez, Briana Gomez, Yuleimy Ruiz Rosa, Melecia Vicente and Michael Girrard.

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In 2013 when Ella Wingler was a student at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour, she participated in a balloon launch at the end of the spring reading program.

The balloon wound up at Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City, South Carolina.

Horticulturist David Poston shared an online blog about finding the balloon and posted pictures of the balloon around the property.

To read the blog and see the pictures, visit

Wingler is now finishing up her sophomore year at Seymour High School.