April 4, 2002
Reading is Fundamental
By Howie Mansfield
Over the last four years, St. Ann’s School in Syracuse has participated in principal Nancy Tario’s reading challenge. The reading challenge encourages students to read as many books as possible in order to have Tario do something “crazy.” One year, Tario spent the night sleeping in a tent outside the school. Last year, Tario dyed her hair in rainbow colors.
The goal of the reading challenge program is to foster a love of books that will last a lifetime. “What I’m trying to do is establish a habit of reading at home. Usually kids will spend time watching TV and playing Nintendo. These kids need to get in a habit of reading in the evenings, instead of just at school,” Tario explained. “Reading is the cornerstone of what these students will need to be successful in other areas. Without strong reading skills, it puts them at a disadvantage in the future.” This year’s theme for the reading contest was “Cook up a good book.” The students had an opportunity to fill out reading sheets, tallying the number of books or minutes they read. How many books were read determined how long the students would choose “gross food” for Tario to eat.
All 210 St. Ann’s students participated in the reading challenge, which kicked off during Catholic Schools Week, and the response was overwhelming, Tario said. Kindergarten teacher Karen Sparkes said she hopes more kids will read regularly at home. “We want them to participate more at home. We read at least two or three stories each day with the kids and give them a good variety. Some are shorter books, others are longer. The kids love to be read to, and they are developing a love of books from the beginning,” Sparkes said. “And the gross food helps to motivate them, too.”
Amanda Riley, 6, a kindergarten student at St. Ann’s, said she loves to read. Amanda said her mother reads Are You My Mother? to her and does special voices for each character. “Yes, I like to read little books, and some big books like Dr. Seuss,” said Amanda, who read 45 books during the reading challenge. Kindergartener Matthew Hughes, 5, said he read 65 books in the challenge. He said he likes to read with his parents. “I read a lot of books at home. I read more with my mom, but if she is busy, then I read with my dad,” Matthew said. “My favorite book that my mom reads to me is Happy Birthday Biscuit.”
Alexa Daniey, 7, a first-grade student, read over 70 books for the challenge. The latest book she was reading is called Geraldine’s Big Snow. “I read hard books, some chapter books,” Alexa said. “I have about six or seven books from the library at home right now.” Another first-grader, William Sanborn, 6, said he enjoys reading, especially the “Harry Potter” series.
“My favorite one is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I wanted to read the book first, before I saw the movie,” Sanborn said. “The movie and the book had a few parts taken out, but it was good. It was awesome when they found the Stone. Now I’m reading the Chamber of Secrets at home and we are almost halfway through it.”
First-grader Mary Clare Sweeney, 6, said she reads both at home and at school. Mary Clare was one of the students who read the most books for the reading challenge. “I like to read Disney books and chapter books,” Mary Clare said. Mary Clare said it was fun to see Mrs. Tario eat the gross food. “It was funny to see her eat that stuff,” she said. Tario said gross food wasn’t too bad. The kids made her eat food such as fish eggs, octopus, and crab. The kids thought it was disgusting, Tario said. “The kids were very excited, more excited than other years. Dan Seeley, a chef at Kelly’s Restaurant, got the kids excited by holding the stuff up before I would eat it,” Tario said. “Even a couple of kids got a chance to try some of it. I was surpirsed that some of the little ones tried it.”
Kristen Hojnowski, 11, a sixth grade student, said reading has helped her in her academic career. “Reading helps you with your vocabulary and it makes you want to write more things,” Kristen said. “It really helps you with school and makes it easier.”