Joshua Lee

Joshua Lee, a fifth grader at Bitz Intermediate School, poses for a photo at BIS on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 3. Lee read a whopping total of 9,257,861 words over the course of three years at BIS.

Reading is an essential formative process for young people to expand their minds, develop an imagination and improve their command of language. The staff at Bitz Intermediate School recognized that students who read more go on to learn more efficiently, resulting in a program that rewards students for reading copious amounts of words. For one student in particular, that love of reading has been taken to heart.

Joshua Lee is a fifth grader at BIS. His father, U.S. Navy Lt. Junior Grade Peter Lee, is a Navy Chaplain. Over the course of the past three years the student has read a total of 9,257,861 words according to the word tracking software, Reading Counts, used by the institution. According to Lee, a big part of his focus on reading comes from his mother, Ok Hui Mun Lee.

“My mom wants me to do my best so she suggests books for me to read,” Lee said.

Lee also acknowledges his favorite subject is reading. The fifth grader continues to find new series and stories to engage and enlighten him. He also stays cognizant of the word count thanks to the software.

“I read the ‘Percy Jackson’ books, the whole series,” Lee said. “They’re like 60,000 to 100,000 words.”

Lee nearly devours the information in those books, stating that it takes him about three days to finish one of that length. A “normal” book as the student calls them can be absorbed and understood in about an hour.

The “Jackson” series, quintet by Rick Riordan, is one of the fifth grader’s favorite sets of books per Jessica Buckley, a teacher at BIS.

“I love talking to him about his two favorite series, ‘Percy Jackson’ and ‘Harry Potter.’ In speaking with the other specialists, it is apparent he is an all-around good kid,” Buckley said. “He plays the piano and does great in music. Our physical education teacher talked about his love for sports as well… that he always wants to improve and work to do his best.”

Lee sees the split between his three years and the number of books he read from a mathematical standpoint as well. The growth has been exponential.

“I read a little over two million words in third grade and a little more over two million in fourth grade,” Lee said. “I read over four million this year.”

According to Dr. Mary Beth Poole, BIS’s resident reading specialist, that’s going to pay big dividends for Lee later in life.

“You learn about the world. It is mind expanding,” Poole said. “All your life you are going to have that. Another gift is reading as a leisure time activity. Reading is a very cheap hobby. If you love reading, you don’t have to rent a boat or go skiing, you can just grab a book.”

“I think you get to know more words and can use them better,” Lee said. “It’s good for your vocabulary.”

Buckley sees that mental acuity as part of Lee’s positive outlook.

“He does all these things with a smile on his face and a great attitude,” Buckley said.