Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown kicked off his 13th annual Reading Rules! Kids Summer Reading Challenge program Thursday. The program challenges city students to maintain and improve their reading during the summer months.
As part of our Focus on Education reporting, WBFO's Eileen Buckley talked with some students and principal at Public School Number 32, Bennett Park Montessori, about their reading efforts.
"I like to read any kind of books. When I'm bored I just like to read," said Ernyes, 4th grader Bennet Park. He likes reading mysteries and stories about real-life sports figures. He was among a group of students in K-through 8th grade that surrounded Mayor Brown to announce his summer reading challenge. In a city where one in three Buffalo residents is functionally illiterate, this program works to boost reading skills among students.
"To have some enjoyment and also keep their skills ready for September when the come back," said Bennett Park Montessori Principal Pauletta Stines. She said the school works to promote reading all throughout the year and it is paying off.
"And our students are fairing well, at least on par or better than other students around the district. I think that we have a lot of programs here that we are pushing reading constantly," said Stines.
And from the youngest we spoke with at Bennett Park, like kindergarten student Maiya to 8th grader Donovan, they're all reading books.
"Mary had a Little Lamb," said Maiya when asked about her favorite book.
"I like to read because it gives me like passion about what I'm reading and it's full of wisdom and you never know what can happen, so I like it," said Donovan.
During the 13-year-history of the summer Reading Rules program nearly 9,000 students completed the challenge, reading more than 60,000 books.
Mayor Brown emphasized students remain with the program once they sign up, keeping reading at a consistent level each summer.
"And there are some children who have been in the reading program for 12-years running now," said Brown. "I have been excited to have seen some of these children literally grow up that started when they were in kindergarten."
Students in K-through 8th grade are required to read seven books from a list provided and include brief written summaries. High school students must read at least four books to qualify.
For someone, like first grader Jazime, she reads well-above the program requirements. She boosts a list of 123-books she's already read.
"Some book are funny and some books gives you information about stuff," said Jazime. "I really want to learn what's new in the world and I like learning stuff that's new that I didn't know yet. "You should start reading because it could give you information about stuff.
8th grader Nisa tells WBFO News she loves to read. Nisa offers advise to other students who don't like to read.
"You should start reading because it gives you a different perspective of things and it interests you in what you want to read when you grow up, and interests you in what you would like to do," said Nisa.
The incentive for children to participate are prizes -- including an iPad, iPod and bicycle.
Applications can be downloaded or submitted on the city of Buffalo’s home page, www.city-buffalo.com. Book summaries must be turned in by Friday, September 12, 2014 in order to receive an invitation to the prize ceremony.