Pupils develop taste for books

Program: 100 Book Challenge gets children reading independently, and top performers receive awards and meet the mayor.

May 30, 1999|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

At age 8, Christyna Johnson reads all the time. She reads to her grandmother, her aunt and her mother every day. She reads so voraciously that she read her way through 515 books, up two grade levels and straight into Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's office on Friday.

Christyna was one of 11 children honored by Schmoke and the Abell Foundation for reading more books than anyone else in their schools. First-grader Nicole Winneberger from George Washington Elementary read 1,248 books.

They are enrolled at the 11 schools that took part in an Abell Foundation-sponsored program called the 100 Book Challenge, designed to boost the amount of independent reading children do each day at home and in the classroom.

The Abell Foundation purchased 240 books for each of 135 classrooms in city schools. In some schools, that amounted to $17,000 worth of new books.

Books were color-coded by level of difficulty, and children were encouraged to check them out and take them home to read at night with a parent or guardian.

The challenge was not only for children to read 100 books, but to read independently at home and even at school for at least a half-hour each day.

Crystal Johnson said her daughter Christyna was a reluctant reader before this year. "I had to make her," said Johnson, who volunteers to help pupils during reading time each morning at Calvin Rodwell Elementary.

But gradually her daughter began bringing more books to her each night. Now, she reads at home every night, and her third-grade teacher, Sonya Goodwyn, said the girl's academic abilities have leapt forward.

Christyna Johnson's experience appears to have been common in the participating schools. George Washington Elementary Principal Florence Johnson believes the program has had a tremendous impact on her pupils.

Initially, she said, parents were not particularly excited when she announced that each child was expected to read 100 books. "They thought that was far above what their children could do."

But every child has read 100 books, and many have read 200 or more, she said. She has seen the program make a difference in everything from behavior to the quality of science projects.

"Some of my boys who had behavior problems and weren't reading at all I have seen them read 100 books," the principal said. "I believe they feel better about themselves."

Children are going to the Enoch Pratt Free Library more often, and she believes her pupils progressed more rapidly as a result of the 100 Book Challenge and the city's new reading textbooks introduced last fall.

Bonnie Legro, an education program officer at the Abell Foundation, said about 2,600 pupils have participated this year, collectively reading hundreds of thousands of books. A parent or teacher had to verify that the children had read each book.

About half of the pupils have increased their reading level two or three grades in one year, she said.

Legro said the Abell Foundation will continue the program next year and is eager to see whether test scores will increase in participating schools.

Other pupils winning awards Friday were: Whitney Featherstone, a third-grader at Cecil Elementary School; Amanda Clark, sixth-grader at Curtis Bay Elementary; Tierra Powell, third-grader at Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary; Shakia Dorsey, eighth-grader at Hamilton Middle School; Shaquona Townsend, second-grader at Holabird Elementary; Keith Dangerfield, second-grader at Mary Rodman Elementary; Felicia Peddicord, second-grader at Medfield Heights Elementary; Jermel McCalla, second-grader at Belmont Elementary; and Latisha Ayler, fourth-grader at Patapsco Elementary.

Pub Date: 5/30/99

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