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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Teen Bookworms share love of reading with Kailua keiki

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KAILUA — At a time when most teens are thinking of beaches rather than books, Sara Wynhoff and 11 of her friends are giving up part of their summer for the love of reading and a fondness for children.

Kailua Bookworms creator Sara Wynhoff reads with Hawaiiloa Durantes, left, and Calvin Kuhns. The Bookworms program at the Kailua library pairs teenage mentors with children from three elementary schools.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Wynhoff, a 15-year-old Iolani student, considers herself a bookworm and wanted to share the joy of reading with youngsters this summer in a program she has created and runs out of the Kailua library with the help of other teenage volunteers.

Kailua Bookworms targets children in kindergarten to second grade from Kailua, Kainalu and 'Aikahi elementary schools. The goal is to get children involved with Kailua library's Summer Reading Program.

"I think this is an important time to show them how books and the library can be fun," Wynhoff said.

She convinced 11 other teens to help mentor a child once a week for 45 minutes. About 17 children signed up for Bookworms and meet with their mentors on Tuesdays or Thursdays for six weeks.

Children's librarian Patti Meerians said she supports Wynhoff's idea, which is not part of the library's program.

"It's nice to have older teens do something for the community and the kids," Meerians said. "Anything that helps promote reading, I'm always behind."

Brought by their parents to the library on Tuesday for their first Bookworms session, some of the children were shy, while others latched onto their mentors ready to read or be read to.

Bookworms volunteers

In addition to organizer Sara Wynhoff and Bruna Rieder, participants are: Erika Nielsen, 15; Jodi Park, 14; Misty Oka, 15; Lindsey Ross, 15; Tania Slavens, 15.

Also, Chloe Le Marchand, 16; Ariel Kagawa, 15; Shannon Mickelwait, 15; Sara's brother Matthew Wynhoff, 17; and Marya Kaminski, 14.

Anyssa Burgess, 7, clung to her mother, Kerry, reluctant to let go until extracting a promise that mom wouldn't be far away. Sarah Katz, who just finished second grade, was an animated reader, even making sounds to imitate characters in the book.

Initially, the teenagers familiarized the children with the library, signed them up with the reading program, helped them get a library card and books to read.

Kerry Burgess said she hopes Anyssa will improve her reading through the program. Anyssa's teacher encouraged Burgess to try it because of the one-on-one attention.

Burgess said she thought having teenagers as mentors would be an added incentive for her daughter. "She'll learn to read just to impress them," she said.

Last year, 900 students signed up for the library's reading program. So far this year, 400 have registered, but Meerians said she expects more this week.

The library's reading program offers prizes and incentives to read, and younger students reaching the goal of reading 100 books, or having books read to them, receive a surprise package. Older students, from third to sixth grades, must read 2,500 pages for their prize.

Wynhoff's love for reading and fond memories of the library were fostered by weekly outings there with her parents, Bill and Leslie Wynhoff of Kailua, and regular reading at home.

Wynhoff attracted volunteers who said they like children and thought the program would be an interesting activity for the summer. Many of them have volunteered for other organizations.

Bruna Rieder, 14, and an Iolani student, said Wynhoff has taken her volunteer work a step further.

"It's really impressive to me," Rieder said about Wynhoff's ability to organize the program. "I lived with her for a week, and she spent half the time locked in her bedroom calling people. I don't have the guts to call everyone in Kailua and ask for help."

Wynhoff also recruited the children for the program, appealing to the Kailua/Kalaheo Complex superintendent and distributing fliers at the three schools before the end of the school year. Besides taking part in the program this summer, she said she will surf and take driver's education.

"I think a lot of people don't understand that community service is really important and it really doesn't take that much time," said Wynhoff. "All these volunteers are not taking that much time out of their summer, but they're really helping out and making a big difference."