Young pick books over TV shows

January 31, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Columbia third-grader Ramiz Tamimi loves to watch cartoons but he'd rather be reading.

And he has been.

For the past month, Ramiz and 125 other classmates at Bryant Woods Elementary School have shunned TV one day a week to mark the school's "We'd Rather Read" program, which encourages students to turn off the tube to pursue educational interests.

The program was the brainchild of first-grade teacher Donna Mitchell, who was discussing making New Year's resolutions with her students and came up with the idea to commemorate January, which is Reading Month.

So instead of reaching for a remote control, 9-year-old Ramiz has been reaching for books that his mother bought at garage sales and has been reading them to his 3-year-old sister, Rula.

"I have a lot of books in the basement that I wanted to read," he says. "It's better to read instead of wasting your electricity watching TV."

His mother, Afaf Tamimi, is delighted that her son likes to read but is not surprised. A couple of years back, when the family was living in Akron, Ohio, Ramiz was one of the top finishers in a summer reading program. He finished more than 130 books.

"He finishes his homework, and he starts to read," she says of her son's daily routine.

Teachers have lamented for a long time that their students watch too much TV, fearing that reading as a pastime and a skill would be diminished. And although this program was to commemorate Reading Month, it has been so successful that Bryant Woods teachers are trying to incorporate it throughout the year.

"The kids really do know what this is about," Mrs. Mitchell says. "They really do follow through. This gives them the added perspective on what we see happening."

Today, weather permitting, teachers have scheduled an ice cream social to celebrate the students' success. Earlier, they had sponsored other activities to promote the reading program. Students and staff dressed up as their favorite book character one day, and brought a book to lunch to read another day. Older children have spent class time reading to younger students.

"The kids are more enthusiastic about reading," teacher Fran Clay says. "They really want us to know what they're reading."

Fifth-grader Diane Caporaletti, busy with soccer, basketball and Girl Scouts, often needed a little push from her parents to read, and the program gave her the motivation to start, she says.

"Now I like reading since I did this," says Diane, 10. "I just never cared for reading before. My mom made me read one hour each day of the weekend and 30 minutes every day. I just got into the habit of reading, and I never stopped."

And after participating in the reading program, second-grader Steve Bacon says he's learned a thing or two.

"I like reading a lot," he says. "Now I like it more. Now I have the real picture of it. You can read and learn a lot of stuff about animals and countries."

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