SARASOTA — Nearly 50,000 elementary students in the region created posters to raise awareness about the importance of not missing school.

They competed in a poster contest to encourage students and parents to “Strive for Less Than Five Days Absent” — the theme for last year’s contest.

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading announced the winners Thursday from Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto and Manatee counties for its annual Attendance Awareness Poster Contest.

“It’s an enjoyable way where students can really become the teacher by internalizing the message of outstanding attendance and coming up with their own way of communicating that,” said Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for The Patterson Foundation in a news release. “They in fact become the teacher for the other students and for their families on why going to school every day matters.”

Beginning in Pre-K and kindergarten, chronic absenteeism — missing at least 10 percent of the school year — increases the risk of being unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade, a key predictor of continued success in school and life, according to a news release.

Since the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s inaugural poster contest in 2015, nearly 200,000 posters have been created by students, the release states.

Each regional winner receives an Apple iPad and four tickets to a Major League Baseball spring training game in their region.

Awards will be presented at upcoming school board meetings in their counties.

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