Olivia Sorto, 8, lives in an imaginary world with a talking pig, an eccentric musical genius and a troublemaker named Farley.
She feeds her imagination with characters from the hundreds of books she reads each year.
Simply, she was born to read, she said. “I just love it.”
Her enthusiasm paid off last Wednesday when she won a bicycle, one of the grand prizes in the Sugarland Elementary School “Destination Read to Me” raffle. Each student was given the opportunity to submit one paper entry bearing his name for every 10 books he read. The older children received credit for one book each time they read for 30 minutes. Three hundred minutes were the equivalent of 10 books.
The more books the students read, the greater their chances were of winning prizes. The reading incentive program, which started Oct. 1, ended last week.
Sorto read 1,150 books. The young bookworm said she was in her “habitat” when she was reading, much like a lion in his lair. She said she likes her hobby so much that she reads to neighborhood children. Sorto’s favorite book is “Charlotte’s Web” and its character, Wilber the pig. She also loves the musical story, “Beethoven Lives Upstairs.” Her favorite author is Judy Blume, who writes about Farley and other characters in her comical books.
RONN LONON, wearing a Dr. Seuss hat, was the hero at “Destination Read-to-Me, as he called the students to collect their prizes. Lonon, a volunteer who spends all school year promoting reading, collected donations from area businesses, such as back packs, colored markers, American Girl accessories, portable compact disc players, DVDs, wood kits, bicycles, a 19-inch television and an air hockey table. Lonon’s employer, UPS, donated $2,000 to buy shirts for each student.
“Mr. Ronn” provided encouragement for those who would not win a prize just before he started the event. “You all are winners," he said. “Reading is so basic. It’s fun to get something just from reading.”
Volunteers from the area Senior Center were not on hand for the event, because of illness. Principal Jennifer Ostrowski and they had been reading to students on Wednesdays. “The seniors filled in for parents who were not as involved at home,” she said. One woman, who spoke only Spanish, was a great help with the Hispanic students, she added.
“We chose today, because it was Dr. Seuss’ birthday,” she said. “We thought this would be a good day to recognize the readers in the school.”
Dr. Seuss made an appearance, sending smiles across the sea of boys and girls.
OSTROWSKI said every first-grader in teacher Kevin Pearson’s room read 10 books a month, meeting 100 percent participation. Pearson is a first-year teacher.
Steve Marinich, owner of the Cascades franchise, Parcel Plus, helped Lonon get the bicycles ready just before the students filed into the multi-purpose room. He pumped air into the tires and helped lay out the prizes on rectangle tables. Marinich said he enjoys getting involved with the community. Having made annual donations to the reading program, he wanted to see firsthand the fruits of “Mr. Ronn’s” labor. He said he wants the children to get excited about reading. “The whole key is to have fun with reading, to be interested in it,” he said.
As he watched the excitement spread across the student body, Sorto picked up at least a dozen prizes. Later, she talked about her future. Considering her love of reading, one might think, albeit wrongly, she would want to be a librarian or a bookstore owner when she grows up.
She set the record straight. “I want to be a rock star,” she said.