Local stars, literacy
CD aid children
in reading

Augie Tulba, better known as comedian Augie T, used to turn down auditions and invitations to read to schoolchildren because he is dyslexic and did not want to embarrass himself by tripping over words.

"I always knew I had a problem with reading," the 36-year-old disc jockey for Island Rhythm 98.5 recalled. "I hid it well. I had the gift of gab and with making people laugh -- that's how I hid it."

But he conquered that fear and is joining with his radio show partner Grant Lanai Tabura and other celebrities to read books for an audio CD project being launched tomorrow by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Read to Me International and corporate sponsors.

Tomorrow through Oct. 3, two CDs featuring local personalities reading children's books with Hawaiian themes are available free to people who show their literacy cards at Pizza Hut restaurants.

Teachers union President Roger Takabayashi said the focus of the effort is to promote literacy by getting children excited about reading and encouraging parents and adults to read aloud to their kids.

"We know that children who read outside of school do better inside of school," Takabayashi said, "so we wanted to do something that will excite kids and connect with their experiences."

In "The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark," by Donivee Martin Laird, Tulba and Tabura bring to life a wily shark and the pigs he craves. Reader Jeffrey Apaka makes a convincing rascal in "The Musubi Man," written by Sandi Takayama, librarian at Barbers Point Elementary School.

Also on the first CD are two other books that appeal to toddlers through second-graders: "The Little Makana," by Helen Dano, read by Mihana Souza of Puamana, complete with lullabies; and "Pele and the Rivers of Fire," by Michael Nordenstrom, read by recording artist and kumu hula Manu Boyd.

The second CD, geared for children in fifth though eighth grade, features a spooky, longer book, "The Curse of Pele," by P.J. Neri, read by KSSK newscaster Dave Curtis.

Tulba said that when reading to children and parents at school gatherings, he levels with them about his reading disability, and has found that many parents later confess that they do not read to their children because they are not fluent and "no like make shame."

"I tell them, you've just got to read," said the father of five. "You just pick up the simplest book, like 'The Cat in the Hat,' and it trains the kids to realize reading is important. What happens is the kids will end up loving to read."

The Rainbow Bridge CDs work well for parents who do not read well, noted Tulba, who grew up in Kalihi Valley with a father who did not read. All the books are available at local libraries.

"They don't have to read, they just have to listen to the CD," he said. "That's why I love this program. You can play the CD for your kids, pick up the book and follow along in the book. You can listen along with them, laugh along with them."

Literacy cards are available at Pizza Hut restaurants for a $10 donation to the Hawaii Pizza Hut Literacy Fund and entitle the bearer to a free carry-out pizza for every pizza purchase for a year.



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