February 27, 2024

Select Newton elementary students win bikes after meeting reading goals

Future is bright for the ‘Book for a Bike’ program, which was sponsored by Newton Masonic Lodge

Abel Brown, a second grader at Emerson Hough Elementary School, tests out his new bike he won from the Book for a Bike program sponsored by Newton Masonic Lodge. The bikes were assembled and provided by Joe Urias, owner of Mojo Cycling.

Elementary students in the Newton Community School District who met their reading goals this year were put into a drawing on May 22 to win a free bicycle as part of the inaugural “Book for a Bike” program organized by sponsor Newton Masonic Lodge and local business Mojo Cycling, which provided the bikes.

Dan Crook, worshipful master at the Newton Masonic Lodge, was present during the giveaways earlier this week, with the final one being held at Emerson Hough Elementary School. Crook said the kids whose names were randomly picked from the drawings were so excited to take home their bikes.

Before the end of the year, students had to submit their reading logs to be entered in the drawing to win a bike. One second grade winner and one third grade winner from each elementary school got to take home a bike. Each class also had its own reading goal with prizes at the end for when that goal was met.

“Hopefully we get two or more for each grade in the future,” Crook said. “This is our first year doing this program, but the Masons have been doing it around the country for quite a few years. We’re just bringing it in this year. One of our fellow Lodge members helped start it going for us by donating $1,000.”

Emerson Hough Elementary students Erick Johnson-Carruthers and Abel Brown pose with their new bikes alongside members of the Newton Masonic Lodge. One third grader and one second grader from each building were selected from a drawing to win a new bike as part of the Book for a Bike program sponsored by Newton Masonic Lodge. The bikes were assembled and provided by Joe Urias, owner of Mojo Cycling.

Fundraising through the Newton Masonic Lodge’s monthly breakfasts helped cover the rest of the costs. The monthly breakfasts are held 7 to 9 a.m. on the second Saturday of every month at 208 First Ave. W. For a $7 donation, guests can enjoy all-you-can-eat eggs, pancakes and biscuits and gravy.

Helmets were included for each bike, which were assembled by Mojo Cycling owner Joe Urias. When the program was announced in January, Urias spoke favorably of the chance to encourage kids to read. As a fellow Newton Cardinal and as someone who struggled with dyslexia, the cause meant a lot to him.

“My grandkids are all really strong readers and they do a lot of reading,” Urias said. “I’m glad to see the school system’s taking it so seriously. For a kid like me who struggled so much, this is for me just a no-brainer. I was never the smartest kid in school but I was at least able to function. Today, I read a lot of books.”

Urias credits his collegiate success and his 4.0 grade point average in college to his beloved grade-school teacher, Eloise Anthony. Through his own struggles, Urias knows just how much reading can be beneficial for kids. So getting on board with the program that incentivizes kids to read was a no-brainer.

“I can only imagine if you can pull some kid that’s not used to reading and have an incentive of a new bike for them, I mean it could change their life,” Urias said to Newton News in a past interview.

Crook said it made his heart feel good to see elementary students so happy to receive their bikes knowing they learned something along the way.

“It’s a win-win,” he said. “Every kid was excited up until the drawing was made, and then even afterwards the kids were happy for who won. The kids were happy for their fellow students, so we’re going to keep doing (this program). The more people we can get to the Lodge, the more bicycles we can put together.”

Erick Johnson-Carruthers, a third grade student at Emerson Hough Elementary School, shows off while riding his new bike he won from the Book for a Bike program, which is sponsored by the Newton Masonic Lodge.
Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.