Sara Wynhoff, founder of the Kailua Bookworms, helps Devon Bornschbin select a books at Kailua Library.

Big kids help little kids
learn that reading is fun

Kailua Bookworms was created
by a teen with a love of books

Sitting at a small round table on child-size chairs within the air-conditioned man-made forest in Kailua Library, 5-year-old Brittany Lauronal picks up "Pinky and Rex Go to Camp" and begins reading the first chapter to 16-year-old Iolani student Jillian Rowan.

At another table, second-grade student Devon Bornschein and Kailua Bookworms' 16-year-old program creator, Sara Wynhoff, take turns reading about "The Hulk." They are surrounded by a handful of other children searching for that special book full of words that paint pictures, turning them into crime solvers, surfers or maybe even a Berenstain bear preparing for camp.

"Many families don't realize how important reading is, which I think is a problem," said Wynhoff, a 10th-grade student at Iolani School. "(When I was young) my dad would read to me every night."

They started with "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," by L. Frank Baum, and Wynhoff found that the classic tale was part of a series that has become one of her favorites. She's currently tackling "The 13th Warrior" by Michael Crichton.

"I've always loved reading," said Wynhoff, who enjoys fiction more than nonfiction. "You can do anything. You can be anyone when you're reading. Now that I'm older, I see that people see reading as something you only do in school -- as a chore."

So she started Kailua Bookworms to show children that reading can be fun and exciting. There's no other agenda. The program wasn't set up to try to turn out better readers, although that would be a great side benefit. Wynhoff and her teen volunteers just want to prove that reading isn't drudgery.

In the first year, the mentoring program brought in about 20 children. This is the second year, and there are 47 readers and a lengthy waiting list.

"Getting the kids was no problem," Wynhoff said, adding that it's been harder to find enough high schoolers to volunteer. Many attend summer school or go on family trips.

Iolani school student Jillian Rowan reads with Brittany Lauronal at Kailua Library. Rowan is a volunteer with the library's Bookworms program.

Wynhoff's involvement with the Kailua Library began two years ago when she volunteered to help with its summer reading program.

All of the Kailua Bookworms sign up for the library's annual summer reading program, which awards preschool through sixth-grade students with weekly prizes for books or pages read.

"Last year, there were 700 children (in the summer reading program)," Wynhoff said. "This year, there are around 400 to 500 students."

In the Kailua Bookworms program, children meet with a teen volunteer at least once a week during a six-week period that ends July 15. This also helps the children and their parents familiarize themselves with the library. "I hope that through the program, once the kids are excited, the parents will get more involved and excited, too," Wynoff said.

Once the program ends, Wynhoff plans to get a part-time job. This will still give her time to pursue her other passion, surfing, and she'll continue hitting the books until school begins.

Although no more enrollment is being taken this summer, there's no need to give up on reading dreams. Wynoff's tip to parents is simple: Keep reading to them or with them.

The teenager said that many parents think that as long as a child can read, they can just buy or borrow a book and leave the child alone with it. But reading with someone else makes reading more fun. She suggests choosing interactive books such as those in the "Encyclopedia Brown" series for older children. In that youth sleuth series, clues are given throughout the book, and parent and child can try to solve the cases together.

For younger children, Wynhoff suggests "The Hungry Caterpillar" or any of the Dr. Seuss books, which offer clever rhythms through word play and rhymes. She advises parents to choose books that are colorful, have fantasy creatures or rhyme.

For wee ones who don't know how to read, books such as "The Little Red Hen" help get them involved through repetition of words and phrases. After a while, children are able to memorize and repeat the phrases, giving them the roots of language.

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