Boy, 7, tries to outread himself BALTIMORE CITY


June 24, 1993|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Staff Writer

Seven-year-old Otha Holloway Jr. promises to read 2,001 books this summer. Last summer, he read 950, the most of any child in the Enoch Pratt Free Library's annual "Race to Read" program.

In the past week, Otha, who will be a third-grader at Cherry Hill Elementary School in South Baltimore in the fall, has read 119 books.

"I like reading because I can learn," said Otha, who reads above a sixth-grade level.

Registration for this summer's "Race to Read" program, now in its fifth year, began June 1.

For their achievements last summer, Otha and other participants in the program were honored at an awards ceremony at the Central Pratt Library. Otha got a trophy and a savings bonds from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Just over 3,000 youngsters signed up last summer for the 10-week program, according to Deborah Taylor, a Pratt spokeswoman.

Otha gets his books from the Pratt's Cherry Hill branch, which also had the second-place winner in the program, 10-year-old Latoya Linton, who read 633 books. The branch ranked fourth in the number of participants last summer, finishing behind branches in Hamilton, Gardenville and Hampden.

He makes three- or four-hour weekday visits to the branch and selects at least two books to read there, primarily fairy tales and adventure novels. He also takes 20 or more books to read at home, where he lives with his parents, Otha Sr. and Marilou, and his 17-month-old brother, Christopher.

"He started reading when he was three years old," said Mrs. Holloway. "He started with 'Race to Read' when he was in kindergarten and read less than 100 books that summer."

The Cherry Hill branch is a room in the Cherry Hill Multi-purpose Center on Giles Road. It was one of eight libraries threatened with closure in 1991 when the budget for the library was cut.

"I don't know what the future will hold, but I haven't heard anything this year," said Romaine Chase-Bobbitt, the branch manager. "The mere fact that the top two readers are from here, we must be doing something right."

Ms. Chase-Bobbitt said at least 250 children register for the program at Cherry Hill. "The emphasis here [is on] children and we have some wonderful children in Cherry Hill," she said.

Latoya signed up for "Race to Read" two summers ago as a way of keeping herself occupied during her hospital visits.

"She has cystic fibrosis and diabetes. She's sick a lot so she reads a lot," said Gloria Linton, her mother. "And it has improved her reading."

Ms. Linton said Latoya was a slow reader but after joining the program, her speed, comprehension and vocabulary increased to the point that she is reading on a sixth-grade level. Latoya used her improvement to earn an academic excellence award from Coppin State College this year, said Ms. Linton.

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