Top readers at Carter Elementary School stood on the cafeteria stage Tuesday afternoon expecting to get a simple certificate.
Their real prize was hidden behind closed curtains.
“We brought a surprise for everybody here today,” said Jason Cook, manager of Macon’s Academy Sports and Outdoors.
Academy, which partners with the school, donated prizes for the most prolific male and female readers in the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes. The students took comprehension tests on what they read and collected points through the Accelerated Reader program.
When the audience quieted and the curtains opened, there stood 13 boys bikes and 13 girls bikes, each with a helmet and sparkly bow.
“I thought I was going to faint,” said Dylan Miller, a third-grader who gasped when he saw his new bicycle. “I had one but needed a new one. I got a little too big for mine.”
For a moment, Aman Jindani, another third-grader who is a big fan of the “Magic Tree House” book series, thought the presentation might be a trick.
“I thought, ‘are we going to get to keep it or not?’ ” the 8-year-old said.
The gesture was touching enough to bring one mom to tears. “I’m always proud of all my kids,” said Emily Woodyard. “To see them receive an award for what they work for, I cried.”
The gears in her son Michael’s bike just went out, and the family was going to get him a new bike after Christmas.
But now, the fifth-grader’s reading prowess delivered an unexpected reward.
“I think this was a huge motivator,” said Latricia Reeves, an assistant principal at Carter. “The kids knew nothing about it.”
To see the students’ faces and have the rest of the upper-grades student body seeing what can happen when they work hard, “next year we’ll have reading scores out the water,” Reeves said.