Dillingham Elementary School's annual "I-Did-a-Read" challenge has kids buzzing at the school

Mar 15, 2021

As mushers in the 2021 Iditarod cross the finish line in Willow, readers in Dillingham participate in the ninth annual I-Did-a-Read, hosted by the elementary school. It’s a challenge inspired by the race itself, encouraging kids, parents and staff to spend more time reading together.

Kaitlin Sommer's third grade students in class at Dillingham Elementary. Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
Credit Jordan Sanger

This year’s I-Did-a-Read competition is one of the longest yet, clocking in at 900 miles. Or rather, 900 minutes of reading. Each participant receives a “trail log” to track their progress. A minute of reading equals about two minutes on the trail.

The I-Did-a-Read was created by Nick Tweet, the Director of Climate and Culture at the school.

“It’s challenging this year," Tweet said. "But we’re also trying to reach out to the parents and say look at this value that we share and look at how powerful it can be. What we’re trying to do is foster that time that they spend at home. It’s great to see adults setting aside time and sitting down next to them and reading.”

There are 15 checkpoints along the trail. In-between each checkpoint are a number of boxes. To check off a box, second through fifth graders must read for 10 minutes. To even the playing field, it’s just five minutes for kindergartners and first graders.

Students start in Anchorage and make their across the building, before looping back to a burled arch at the end.
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

At the school, each checkpoint is represented with a sign around the building. The trail starts in Anchorage, then leads to Skwentna, then on to Finger Lake and more. It eventually loops back around to a burled arch at the end. Kids get to personalize their own dog team by coloring pictures of a musher with their sled. Some cut out pictures of their own faces and place them on the mushers.

“It’s something we can do across the school and everybody talks about it," Tweet said. "You see people’s mushers, so there’s that physical aspect. When you get to the next checkpoint, you can go move your dog team and you feel like it’s this sense of going down the trail. And that’s what kids love.”

And the students are excited. We made our way to

The start and finish  of this year's I-Did-a-Read challenge, marked by the burled arch.
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

Kaitlyn Sommer’s Third Grade Class, where we met with some avid readers. Here are Aurora Kregar and Albert Larson with their class.

Aurora Kregar: First I was reading Dog Man, and I read two Dog Man books in one hour of course.

Albert Larson: “I’m reading Diary of a Minecraft Zombie.  iIt’s about this zombie and he goes to scare school. His mom said you can’t have any human friends but he has a human friend named but he has a human friend named Steve. And I’m pretty sure last night I read for 15 minutes.”

Tyler Thompson: “How much are you all reading at night?”

Class: A lot. Oh I read two hours and 10 minutes last night.”

Nick Tweet: "Did you really?" Mmmhmm!”

Class: My mom says to read 30 minutes every night or we can read more.”

Miss Sommer encourages reading with book studies and reading aloud in class. She is also competing with the kids in her classroom. She says she’s doing her best to keep up with the students.

Kaitlyn Sommer: "I’m reading Upside Down Magic....

Class: “…I already read that”

Sommer: "Apparently they’re beating me on that one.”

Class: ”I haven’t don’t worry I haven’t.”*

Sommer: Right now I’m tied with the two biggest readers in the class who’ve gone home and read a lot. So, I gotta read a little bit more.”

A group of Second Graders share where they are along the trail. March 10, 2021
Credit KDLG/Tyler Thompson

This year’s prize for completing the I-Did-a-Read challenge is a gift certificate at Tide Table, a local coffee shop by the Dillingham Harbor. But what do the kids in Miss Sommer’s class enjoy the most about the challenge?

Class: “Reading. And the prize at the end. You can never forget about the prize at the end. I don’t really like competitions, but I like that you get to be in it and you get to have a choice basically. And no matter what, you’re going to get the prize if you finish it.”

Students, parents and staff are all eligible for the Tide Table gift card. The competition officially ends April 24. 

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200