OUTLOOK: Meet Ava Henry, the sixth-grader who read 7 million words in a school year

Published 4:00 am Sunday, July 16, 2023

It was a record-breaking year for one local sixth grader.

After setting a personal goal of reading 6 million words, Bowmar Elementary School student Ava Henry exceeded her own ambitions and in doing so, she set a school and district record.

Henry earned 1,005.6 Accelerated Reader points during the 2022-2023 school year and read more than 7 million words.

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When asked how she managed to log in so many points and read millions of words in one school year, Henry said, “I like to read 24/7.  Anytime I am not actively involved in doing another task, I am reading. It is just a daily habit for me from the moment I get up to when I go to bed.”

In fact, the 12-year-old said her parents joke about how they have to make her stop reading so she can get other things done.

Henry said reading has always been part of her life, even before she could actually read on her own.

“When I was little, my mom and I would read all the time — hours every day,” she said. “I would ask her to read books over and over to me, so I could memorize them and then ‘read’ them to myself.”

Henry, like all elementary students in the Vicksburg Warren School District, participates in the Accelerated Reader program. Bowmar librarian Jennifer Nelson described the program as a learning tool focused on enhancing reading skills for students.

“Students read books and take tests using the AR online program. They can earn points for books read and tests taken,” Nelson said. “The program also calculates the number of words read and average book level tested on.”

During Henry’s second grade year, she said her teacher, Florence Njiti, was a “strong encourager” of AR. With the help of her mother, Henry said she put together a list of books to read. That year Henry’s AR testing showed she had read close to 4 million words.

But testing can get old, she said.

“When I got tired of testing for AR books, I would read non-AR books, re-read books I had already read or books that were outside of my testing level, just for fun, so I wouldn’t have to test on them. Then I would get back on track with AR books,” Henry said.

But for her final year at Bowmar, Henry said, her mother encouraged her to once again take tests for all the AR books she read.

“My 6 million-word goal would require me to read 1.5 million words every nine weeks, which I thought was doable. I reached 6 million with a few weeks left in school, so I decided to see how much I could read in the last couple of weeks. I kept going back to the library for new books and reached 7 million,” Henry said.

Henry could not recall a favorite book she had read, because she said, she “really loved all books.”

She did, however, mention a favorite series: “Keeper of the Lost Cities.”

“The author really made the characters come to life which helped to keep your attention throughout the series,” she said.

For youth struggling to enjoy reading, Henry suggested they find a book on a topic that interests them.

“If you love the topic, you can’t help but enjoy learning more about it,” she said.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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