Reading has always been an integral part of learning, but normally teachers and staff are the ones encouraging students to read more. At the Melissa Independent School District, however, students have joined the effort to boost reading outside the classroom.

“I see a lot of kids in my grade who really don’t understand the importance of reading, and it has really helped me out a lot in life,” eighth grader Anna Gressett said. “I don’t think I’d be a very good writer if I didn’t read so much, and I don’t think I’d be nearly as good in school.”

Gressett was one of more than 30 students who helped to develop a branded reading initiative for Melissa ISD. The students and faculty met in November and December of last year where they came up with a slogan, logo and hashtag aimed at promoting and encouraging reading.

“The goal, I think, was to get kids from every grade and to kind of support reading — like advertise reading and say its benefits and have kids read more,” seventh grader Lydia Thompson said.

Kim Boedeker, the executive director of academic leadership, said students were chosen for the project by teachers and staff, then divided off into groups. It was a collaborative atmosphere, she said, where students were asked to think up ways to get their fellow classmates interested in reading.

Thompson explained the process from a student’s perspective.

“There were separate tables and everyone talked with their table to come up with an idea,” she said. “We kind of presented our ideas to the rest of the tables and we decided which one we liked the most.”

In the end, the students came up with the slogan, “Grow through the pages” and the hashtag #read2grow.

“It was great to see a lot of really smart kids working together on one thing,” Gressett said.

Gressett’s group came up with the idea for a tree to have roots in a book and be growing out of it. She said it symbolizes how books are the foundation of growth and how readers grow as they read them.

Sixth grader Noah Lakey brainstormed with his group at the meetings.

“The first meeting was kind of rough because we kind of didn’t have a direction to go into,” he said. “But then the second meeting we kind of knew what we needed to do and talk about.”

Taking part in the branding initiative gave Lakey an opportunity to reflect on why he reads and the positive impact he has seen in his own life since taking up reading for fun.

“Since fourth grade when I started reading more, I feel like that has helped me improve with my grades a lot,” he said.

Currently, he is reading “The Diary of Ann Frank.”

“I feel like it relieves stress because you don’t have to like think about what is going on,” he said. “You only have to think about the story and the characters in it.”

Students who took part in the branding project presented the slogan, hashtag and symbol to the Melissa Schools Board of Trustees last month.