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A T-shirt that addresses literacy issues has driven Waldo Middle School administrators to ease up on their heavy fashion foot.
Known for its stringent dress code policy, the school now allows its students to wear a new literacy T-shirt initially designed for Salem-Keizer Education Foundation.
"We've had a dress code in effect for about 10 years, but this shirt sends the message across that we can do things together, work together to improve," said Tricia Nelson, the school's principal.
"It also sets a message that reading and literacy is very important to us. It's the No. 1 thing that we can do for our students."
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The shirt was awarded to a seventh-grade class that read the most books as part of a Project Change Reaction T-shirt contest put on by Break the Chain Apparel.
The winning class logged more than 1,000 hours of reading.
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Each received a literacy T-shirt as a gift from their project's sponsor, the Salem Leadership Foundation, during a school assembly last month.
The focus of the contest was to allow students to design artwork around a social issue of their choice.
In this case, students chose to build awareness around the issue of illiteracy. They designed the shirt in their art class.
The T-shirt features the phrase, "Illiteracy is a life sentence" and contains an image of a youngster with a ball and chain on his ankle, trying to reach for a stack of books.
Last month, seventh-grade and eighth-grade students unveiled the design during a school assembly.
"I thought the school was going to take off like a rocket from all the (excitement)," said Krina Lemons, the executive director of Salem-Keizer Education Foundation. "The cheers that went up and the applause were unbelievable."
To ensure the students were reading books, teachers, school administrators and parents marked and tracked the amount of time the students read.
Kids in all grade levels read books.
All together, the school's students logged a total of 3,000 hours of reading, said Jesse Coté, an instructional coach at the school.
Their reward came when school administrators decided to integrate the literacy T-shirt into the school's official dress code.
"It was a big deal," Tricia Nelson said. "The students wore the shirt the very day they received it. We drew a bunch of the bookmarks. It's good for our students to have a book of their own."
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