Eight-year-old Dante Mayo exudes energy when he talks about his favorite pastime. While many children his age love baseball and video games, Dante fancies reading.
As of yesterday, Dante had read 457 books -- some as long as 200 pages -- since September. Although mysteries are his favorite, the George Washington Elementary third-grader said he will read nearly anything.
"I like reading too much," said the small boy with big brown eyes and a serious demeanor.
Dante, the youngest in a family of eight children, said, "Books are like a magnet, they are stuck to my head."
But he is not his school's only bookworm. The 15 first- through fifth-grade classes at the Washington Village school are assigned to read at least 100 books each quarter. Dante is among 33 pupils who have read more than 300 books since the school year started.
Pupils who have read from 300 to 700 books were honored at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on East Pratt Street yesterday morning. Bundled in their winter coats and hats, they sat on the floor of the children's literature section listening to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke read the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham."
For most of the children, this was not their first taste of "Sam I Am," and they read the familiar rhyming lines with Schmoke. Because some read faster than others, a jumbled mass of young voices overpowered the mayor's reading.
Betty Burch laughed at the children's enthusiasm. Burch attended to offer a hand with the pupils and to watch her children -- David, 6, and Autumn, 10, have read 1,068 books -- be honored for exceeding the reading goal.
"They didn't read as much before, and it has brought their grades up," said Burch, a volunteer in the school's morning and after-school reading programs.
"They even had books for parents to read, so I've read over 300 books, too," she added.
Representatives from Bell Atlantic, the Youth Outreach Foundation, Baltimore Reads and Barnes & Noble attended the ceremony.
Bell Atlantic presented a $25,000 sponsorship check to the Baltimore Reads Book Bank's city distribution sites.
New and slightly used books can be dropped off at 13 locations, including six Starbucks stores. They are then taken to a warehouse and shipped to 27 city distribution sites, from which children can take them home for free. More than 450,000 books have been donated since the Book Bank program began 1992.
Pub Date: 2/23/99