Elementary school students who participated in Linden Public Schools’ summer reading program were entered into drawings that gave them a chance to win prizes including books, games, gift cards and coupons for ice cream.

The main idea was to motivate the children to read, rather than make it mandatory. The drawings were held last Friday at all the elementary schools, with one winner chosen from every classroom in Grades 2 though 5.

Children were also allowed to read whatever they chose, rather than being restricted to a specific assignment or reading list.

“We just want you to read as many books as you can,” said Jennifer Smith, director of elementary language arts. “We just want to encourage them to read, and to like what they read.”

If a child doesn’t like what he or she is reading, it can be a real struggle to get them interested, Smith said.

“It’s hard for parents,” she said. “So if some kid hates books and wants to read a comic book or a sports magazine, that’s OK. At least they’re reading something.

Pomptonian Food Service donated coupons that winners can cash in for a free ice cream in their schools.

“That was nice that they did that,” Smith said. “A free snack is always a good motivator.”

Students took part in informal book talks when they returned to school in September, which gave them a chance to tell classmates about the books they read and maybe learn about books they’d like to read.

“There seemed to be a lot of participation,” Smith said, “which is good.”

Pictured above are the winners from School No. 5. Bottom row: Olivia Aponte, Ahriana Jenkins Smith, Da’Miah Carter. Second row: Stanley Altidor, Al-Timid Walton, Opeolowa Fagun. Third row: Nneka Ugbuaja, Jeremiah Butler-Knight, Joseph Tohon, Tamara Merilan. Top row: Literacy coach Kurt Abel, School No. 5 Principal Laura Scamardella, and Director of Elementary Language Arts Jennifer Smith.