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Pupils urged to flick off TV, open book


5/8 TC The three little bookworms, wearing brightly colored foil wigs complete with antennae, bravely battled Mr. TV Tube Friday, using songs to convince second-graders at Broadneck Elementary School to read more and make the bookworms glow with happiness.

"Television, Television, not again. Television, television, always the same. Television, television, clogging our brains. Please turn the TV off," sang the bookworms and the chorus -- seventh-graders from Magothy River Middle School visiting for the afternoon.

The 16-minute skit and the book giveaway that followed are part of the Magothy River seventh-graders first experience in so-called "service learning," a new requirement in schools this year aimed at teaching students to serve their communities.

Earlier in the day they performed the skit and gave away books at Windsor Farms Elementary.

"Our goal is to provide every second-grade student on the Broadneck peninsula with a free book," said Diane Bragdon, the enrichment programs teacher at Magothy River Middle.

The books were paid for with a $3,100 grant from Reading is Fundamental, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that promotes reading, Ms. Bragdon said.

"We're going to visit all the elementary schools that feed into Magothy River Middle School," she said. "And we'll visit each school three times."

Craig Offhaus, a science teacher at the middle school who worked with students on this project, said the visits give seventh-graders a chance "to perform a very important task that will help somebody else -- convincing children to read. Children today are watching far too much TV, and it is stifling their creativity."

Avon Kidd, a 12-year-old Magothy River student who participated in the project, agrees that he sometimes watches too much TV.

"Kids come home and do their homework and then sit down and watch TV. Sometimes they spend half their day in front of the TV. I know," he said, "because sometimes I do that too."

But Avon usually plays outside or reads after doing his homework. He realizes that it's important to encourage younger children just learning to read to keep reading.

"A lot of people now are illiterate, but if you're going to be signing contracts or writing for a newspaper like you do, you have to know how to read," he said. "It's something you use everyday -- like reading road signs."

Kristen Maisel, also 12 and a member of the performing group at Magothy River, said her 4-year-old brother "gets a story every night.

"But people stop reading to them when they're older, and they need to be reminded they can, and should read for themselves," said Kristen.

After the bookworms saved the day by convincing the three students in the play to read more, the second-graders at Broadneck Elementary went downstairs, where each got to pick out a book.

Kay Campbell, the media specialist at Broadneck Elementary, said owning a book is an important part of learning to read.

"There's something special about owning your own book, and books are a safe place to be," she said. "You can experience an awful lot of things in a safe environment."

Seven-year-old Sarah McCaslin and 8-year-old Brittany Ross were excited about having books of their very own.

The problem with borrowing a book from the library "is that you have to take it back, usually too soon," said Brittany.

But owning your own book "means you can share," said Sarah.

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