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Mayor offers words of challenge

It was a sit-in with a literary twist in the mayor's office Thursday afternoon.

About 50 youngsters sprawled out on the carpet in the lobby of Mayor Byron W. Brown's office. Some children clutched books that bore images of Snow White, action heroes and imaginary animals. Many wore T-shirts that screamed: "Reading Rules!"

The youngsters helped launch the 10th annual Reading Rules! Kids Summer Reading Challenge. Brown said he started the program in 2001 when he was a state senator because he was concerned about test scores in local schools. Since the first year, more than 6,200 students have devoured 43,000 books.

Beyond the educational benefits of reading, the program offers some immediate rewards. A number of children who participated in previous years said they won bicycles, computers and other prizes.

This year's stash includes everything from Sony PlayStations and iPods, to gift certificates and loaded book bags.

Here is how it works: Children in kindergarten through grade 12 are challenged to read seven books at or above grade level, write a summary for each book and submit them by a deadline.

Participants are invited to a splashy ceremony in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, where Brown hands out prizes donated by many sponsors.

Last year, more than 1,000 students completed the reading challenge. Thursday afternoon, Brown asked his young audience to help shatter the record.

"Can I get you guys to be volunteers?" the mayor asked.

"Yes," shouted the chorus of enthusiastic youngsters.

They promised to ask friends, school buddies and others to take the reading plunge.

For information on the program, call 851-READ (7323) or log on to www.city-buffalo.com.

There also were plenty of other youngsters in City Hall, because Thursday was "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day." More than 35 million adults and youth took part in the program in more than 3 million work places across the nation.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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