Poster contest promotes reading

Arundel girl's picture of a baseball player reading in the dugout wins Baysox contest to promote literacy

January 07, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to the Sun

The children at Severna Park Elementary School found out by process of elimination Thursday who won the Bowie Baysox poster competition.

An official with the minor league baseball team told the 300 students in the school's auditorium that she would reveal clues about the person whose drawing would be reproduced on reading posters in schools throughout Anne Arundel, Howard and Queen Anne's counties.

As each clue was revealed, students who did not fit the winner's description had to sit down, said Marlene Engberg, the team's marketing director.

The first clue she gave was that the winner was someone who loves soccer, which prompted some students to sit. The winner is a fifth-grader, Engberg said, and a flood of students sat down.

The third question left one person standing: Abby Thomas was the only soccer-loving fifth-grader who had just returned from a trip to Mexico.

To shrieks and applause, the 10-year-old walked up to the front of the auditorium to pose for pictures with Louie the Baysox mascot, her mother, teacher and the school principal. Abby's drawing of a baseball player reading a book in the dugout won her 12 free tickets to the Baysox's April 14 game against the Akron Aeros, a chance to throw out the first pitch, a T-shirt and a baseball cap.

In addition to posters, her drawing also will appear on bookmarks to encourage students to read four books this winter. The readers' reward: free tickets to the same game.

Stunned by her win, Abby struggled for words when she was interviewed on camera by Anne Arundel County Public School Television.

"It was sort of scary because you didn't really know what to say," Abby said. "Then my mom said something, and I was like, `Whew.'"

The school told her mother, Vicki Thomas, that her daughter had won so that she could be present at the ceremony.

"It was cute," said Thomas, a former season ticket holder to the Baltimore Orioles. "She said, `Mom, I'm not good at interviews,' and I said, `Abby, how many have you done?'"

For 11 years, the Baysox have offered the Read and Hit a Home Run program, sponsored by Educational Systems Federal Credit Union.

About 60 of the 200 middle and elementary schools participating are in Anne Arundel County, making it the county with the highest participation rate, said Ryan Roberts, a spokesman for the Baysox. The club selects winners from three regions, each comprising two or more counties.

Anne Arundel was grouped with Howard and Queen Anne's counties; Prince George's with Montgomery; and Calvert with Charles and St. Mary's counties. Parts of Montgomery County also participate in the same program sponsored by the Frederick Keys.

The Maryland Baseball Holding group owns both of the affiliate teams for the Orioles.

Different regions receive tickets for different nights in April and May to spread out the crowds in the 10,000-seat Prince George's Stadium in Bowie.

Anne Arundel County schools consistently have one of the highest participation rates, Roberts said. Students have read more than 3 million books statewide in the program.

Grace Adams, a first-grader at Severna Park Elementary, drew a picture of a baseball player running with a baseball in one hand and a book in the other. The 6-year-old said she is more of a fan of baseball than of reading, but she is looking forward to going to her first Baysox game.

"Maybe I'll read some Berenstain Bears books," Grace said, referring to the popular children's series.

Fourth-grader Sammie Haughton was a little more excited about the prospect of reading. Fantasies and mysteries are her favorites. She is in the middle of My Chimp Friday and plans to read books from the Baby-sitters Club and American Girl book series.

Sammie won the poster contest in the second grade when she attended Oak Hill Elementary School. The 10-year-old has been to a few games since then with her father and her two sisters.

Abby, too, has been to several Orioles and Baysox games with her family. Her cousin sometimes sings the national anthem at Baysox games. Although Abby enjoys baseball, soccer is her sport. She plays on a travel team.

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