Olympians do the honors for award-winning readers

September 27, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

A bit of Seoul and Barcelona came to South Shore Elementary School last Friday through two Marylanders who participated in the summer Olympic games.

Michelle Knox, a member of the 1992 U.S. rowing team, and Theresa Haught, a member of the 1988 U.S. kayak team, visited the school and presented awards to about 50 students who qualified for the school's own team, an Olympic reading team.

"Reading actually helped me get to the Olympics," said Ms. Knox, an Edgewater native who now lives in Washington. "As a little girl I used to read a lot. Those books told me how to read."

Ms. Haught, a Crownsville resident, said she remembered watching the Olympics as a little girl and dreaming that she, too, might someday participate. Reading not only kept her dreaming, Ms. Haught said, but it taught her the skills she needed for kayaking.

"It took a lot of years and a lot of training [to get to the Olympics]," she said. "It also took a lot of studying. I read about how to train. I studied training."

Ms. Haught told the students that reading also enabled her to make a new career in nursing.

"I never could have been a nurse if I didn't read," she said. "No matter what you do you can always benefit from reading."

South Shore students began their quest for the Olympic reading team last spring when they received a letter and autographed photograph from Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush, who has taken up the cause of literacy, challenged the students to read during their summer break.

To qualify for the team, students had to read at least one book or two pages of a magazine or newspaper, and share the reading of a book with a parent. From the material read, students had to write down the title, author, and a sentence about the book or article. Then, students submitted their information to their teachers at the beginning of this school year.

"We want to teach them that reading is more than just books," said parent Debbie Seward, who helped organize the event. "We want to encourage reading but we also want them to know the importance of setting goals."

Ms. Seward said the school contacted the U.S. Olympic Committee and asked about corresponding with some Olympians. The committee sent a list of Olympians in the Maryland area and items from the 1988 Olympics to be given to the students.

In addition, gold medalist Bruce Jenner wrote the students a letter describing his difficulty in reading as a child. Mr. Jenner, who was diagnosed as dyslexic, told the students in his letter that he learned to push himself a little each day to improve his reading, Ms. Seward said.

Any student who read at least one book and turned in their written work on the book received a prize and a certificate. Seven students who went beyond the required amount of reading were awarded team star status and received medals along with their prizes.

Prizes included such items as Olympic T-shirts, wrist bands, pins, posters and seals.

South Shore gold medalist Janette Rodericks, 9, said she read about 50 books during her summer vacation, mostly the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

"I'm still reading a lot of books," said Janette, a fourth-grade student. "I'm trying to see how many books I can read this year."

First-grade student Darren Biggart held onto his bag full of prizes, a bag almost as big as its owner. He said he was unsure how many books he read during his summer vacation. "I read so much I can't even count it," he said.

But the one thing Darren was very sure of was what he would do with his new gold medal.

"I'm going to wear it all the time," he said.

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