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Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger hands over a check for $10,000 to Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School principal Allyson Steelman DeYoung for participating in the second annual Millionaire Readers program. GMVE had the highest percentage of Millionaire Readers out of the schools participating during the 2013-14 school year.

Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School won $10,000 in a yearlong literacy contest aimed at boosting a love of reading.

The school was one of nine elementaries to sign up for the Read 20 Millionaire Readers challenge, a program offered by Read 20, the county's reading initiative operated by a public-private partnership.

The challenge was for as many children as possible to read 1 million words over the school year. Parents and guardians signed weekly papers to vouch that students read the books. Children were encouraged to read at least 20 minutes a day.

When the counting was done, 68 percent of Ganns Middle Valley's students - 379 children - had met the challenge.

This was the second year of the program, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Thursday. Participation jumped from 900 last year to 1,500 this time around.

"This is to help our young people for the future, being prepared to get good, family-wage jobs," Coppinger said.

Coppinger and Shawn Kurrelmeier-Lee of Read 20 presented Ganns Middle Valley Principal Allyson Steelman DeYoung the $10,000 check at the school's fifth-grade graduation.

The money will be used to improve the school library, said Ranea Uncapher, PTA co-president.

The school staff went all out to get students involved. A banner bearing the slogan "Bananas for Reading" is stretched across a bulletin board near the office.

A poem posted on the bulletin board is a vow: "I promise to read each day and night. I know it's the key to growing up right."

Every Monday, teachers and staff wore blue T-shirts bearing the message, "Following the reading book road." The back of the shirts showed a drawing of a road leading to the school library.

Students earned the T-shirts by reading. The top three readers in the school won bikes.

"Reading helps you learn," said Kalliegh Uncapher, Uncapher's daughter and one of the students who earned a bike.

School clerical worker Michelle Cameron said she gets goosebumps when she thinks about how effective the program has been with her daughter.

Her daughter always asks if she can keep reading beyond the 20-minute goal. Cameron said she tells her, "You don't have to ever ask if you can keep reading."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@times or 423-757-6431.