Kevin Illares, 7, likes to read. A lot.
And, while many kids were frittering away their free time and summer vacation on less auspicious activities such as video games, Kevin deftly accomplished the dowright awesome feat of reading 1000 books.
Kevin, a Phillips Avenue Elementary School student who will be a third grader this year, was honored at Tuesday night's board of education meeting for winning the reading challenge.
"The Thousand Book Reading Program," sponsored by the Mid-East Suffolk Teacher Center is a collaborative effort with the Riverhead Free Library with support from the Riverhead Central Faculty Association and the Board of Education. To that end, 1000 books, targeting ages three to seen, were purchased through MESTRACT. One hundred book bags with ten books each are made available for check-out at the library. About 30 percent of the books are in both English and Spanish.
“The goal of the program is to improve the vocabularies of children with the hope of closing the gap that exists before and after students start their schooling,” said Martha Kennelly, director of MESTRACT, who was present for the award ceremony on Tuesday. "When our young readers reach the 1,000 book mark, we invite them to a board of education meeting to celebrate that achievement with them. Kevin Illares is this year's recipient."
The program serves as a way to build equality in classrooms and help students from Spanish-speaking homes learn to read in both English and Spanish.
Kevin, who also loves soccer and watching TV, is also helping his sister, 4, who is in pre-K, learn to read. The childrens' mother, Lydia Illares, reads to both kids at night; the "1000 Books" program aims to promote parent partnerships to foster reading both at home and in the classroom so it becomes part of the daily routine.
"I love going to the library," said Kevin. "We go almost every day, and I always run right to the new books section to see what they've gotten in. My favorite book was about a Ninja Lego guy, but I also like books about science and plants. One of the books I read from the book bags was about the importance of family. That was a good book, too."
Both Kevin and his little sister Naomi were awarded books at Tuesday's meeting. Kevin's book, which he was able to pick out himself, was entitled "Friends."