Williams Ranch student breaks school record for words read, and she’s not done | TheUnion.com

Williams Ranch student breaks school record for words read, and she’s not done

Stephen Roberson
Staff Writer

"War and Peace" is a massive novel containing 587,287 words.

Imagine reading it, or the equivalent, 10.2 times.

That's what Ava Ban has done.

Oh, and she's in third grade.

The Williams Ranch 9-year-old has been on a mission to break the school's 11-year-old school record since first grade, when she started consuming books for as many as five hours per night competing in the school's first-through-third grade accelerated reading challenge.

"If I'm supposed to be doing a chore, I'm on my bed reading," she said. "I hate doing chores."

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But she's not one dimensional. She also enjoys baseball, soccer, karate, waterskiing and wakeboarding.

"She's both indoors and outdoors," said Robin Spangler, her teacher.

Her reading accomplishment — and mind you she's not finished — earned her a crown, seven gold stars, a medal and her photo on the school's multi-purpose room.


The competition started in 2004.

"We originally started it because we needed to honor these kids that are reading a million words," said Darla Draper, who oversees the program. "It's incredible. At the beginning they were given pencils and Skittles as an award. And when I took it over I thought, 'We can do better than pencils and Skittles. So we got money and we got them medals."

In 2006, Emma Lauterbach broke the record with six million words. "That record was set a year before I was born," Ava Ban said.

Ban plans to reach 10 million words by the end of her third-grade year, but that record may not last long. Her brother, a second-grader, has already reached three million words, ahead of his sister's pace.

"I have to look out for my brother David," Ava said. "My goal is to get 10 million by the end of the year."

Here's how it works.

"You read a book, and you test on this thing called accelerated leader," Ban said. "I just kept reading in first grade, and in second grade I reached a million."

The big word jump is attributable to the advancement of books available to the kids.

"In order for the word counter to count, you read the book and you take a quiz, and if you pass the quiz then you get all the words for that book," said Spangler, who teaches Ban along with fellow third-grade instructor Kristin Robinson. "In first grade you're reading small books that may have 100 or 200 words in them. By the time you're in third grade, and you're Ava, you're reading (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix's 257,045 words)."


JoAnne Ban is not only Ava's grandmother, she's a former educator at Williams Ranch. She says the numbers game, kids knowing exactly where they are in their word count, is a real motivator.

"They want to know what they're score is, and they get to know right away," she said. "And the accumulative effect of the word count is exciting to a lot of kids."

JoAnne Ban said there is also a clear correlation, in her opinion, of those who are voracious readers and their success in life.

"Their spelling is better, their writing is better, their knowledge is better," she said. "That's something I've imparted on Ava and her parents, absolutely."


Ava Ban, like many of the Williams Ranch students, is a fan of series. Her favorite: the fourth of six books in a series of Warriors juvenile fantasy novels about anthropomorphic feral cats called "Warriors: Omen of the Stars."

"I positively love Erin Hunter books," Ban said. The books were credited to Erin Hunter, a pseudonym that refers to authors Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry and Tui Sutherland, as well as plot developer and editor Victoria Holmes.

"I'm more interested in fiction and Erin Hunter, but I like biographies too."

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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