Reading a nighttime ritual Bonding: Eight-year-old Zachary Russell enjoys reading with -- and to -- his parents.

August 02, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

For Zachary Russell, reading is not just something to do when he's not playing with his action figures or trying to impress his teacher at Sunset Elementary School in Pasadena.

It's a way to bond with his parents before falling asleep, get ideas for the toys he wants to make when he grows up, and find out he's not the only one with a name that starts with the last letter of the alphabet.

He planned to do a lot of reading this summer.

"I want to be a good learner," said the quiet, shy 8-year-old, who has long blond hair and a silver hoop in his pierced left earlobe. He reads every day for at least a half-hour -- alone or with his parents --at his home in the Pine Grove Village community.

Nighttime is the right time for getting into a book. "That's always been our time, our quiet calm-down time, when we read together and snuggle together at night," said his mother, Donna.

Since Zachary was a baby, the evening ritual at the Russell house has involved reading -- at first with his mother and father, Glenn, reading to him, but now sometimes with Zachary reading aloud to his parents. "Sometimes we take turns where he does a page and we do a page," Donna Russell said.

Their support has kept him reading daily, and it's paid off. Zachary, who is entering the third grade, scored in the 99th percentile on the California Test of Basic Skills in the last school year.

He received a note from his teacher, Carol Rothermel, on his report card, saying, "Zac, you have done so well, thank you for helping to make my year fun. Have a great summer and keep reading."

He planned to, even though he sometimes gets annoyed when he doesn't know the words. But that doesn't happen often when he's nose-deep in a mystery, a science book about the Earth and precious gems, or his favorite compilation, "The Scary Shark Stories," with tales by various authors about "people that go in the sea and try to look for sharks, and the shark tries to eat them and tear their boat and smash it."

Still, Zachary said, "It's just not scary enough for me."

Some books he finds enlightening. Reading "gives me ideas of how to make things," said the aspiring toy inventor, who thinks he might want to make action figures, such as one with "bouncy balls on the hands and the feet so it would bounce back up."

One of his favorite stories, "Zachary Zween," is set in London. Zac allowed that he likes it a lot "because he has the same name as me."

Zachary explains the plot this way: "A kid that has to stay at the end of line in class because his names began with Z."

It has a happy ending, the young reader notes: "He finds out that being at the end of the line is fun."

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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