Damon Phillips has found a new love. It involves books - and hiding them, if possible.
"Tell the other kids not to take these," he said to remedial reading and computer teacher Karen Stiffen about the "Circle of Magic" books on a table in the library - as if there were no others to catch students' attention. "Just hide them."
More than 200 books had been ordered for last week's Reading is Fundamental program at Hugh Gallagher Elementary School in the Storey County School District.
About $700 was collected to purchase books from donors like the Storey County Classified Association, Comstock Concrete, Tetrus Building Materials, Jennifer Lopiccolo and Lopiccolo Construction.
In the library, Damon had discovered author Debra Doyle's "Circle of Magic" series on the table set up fourth- and fifth-grade readers.
"I like the Harry Potter books," the 9-year-old said. "This looks like Harry Potter, sort of."
On a piece of loose-leaf paper, he had written the names of the next three books in the "Circle of Magic" series: "The Wizard's Statue," "Secret of the Tavern" and "Danger in the Palace."
"Maybe I'll get one of them for Christmas," he said.
Reading is Fundamental is a program for Title I schools, in which the federal government matches donations given to a school for book purchases. Hugh Gallagher does not have a large number of students from low-income families, so is not considered Title I.
But teachers like the program so much, they've been doing it faithfully year after year, despite not receiving matching funds.
"We just think it's a great program for students," said school secretary Kim Hames, who ordered all the books. "This gives the kids the opportunity to pick out a book in a learning environment and take it home and have Mom and Dad read it to them, read it themselves, or read it to their younger siblings."
Hames ordered the books at a discount through book clubs. Books included biographies on George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, Helen Keller and Martin Luther King; current pop figures like Shaquille O'Neal, Hillary Duff and Macauley Culkin; or natural-science topics, like hibernation, worms, zebras and even natural disasters.
But Dylann Smotherman, 10, wasn't interested in natural disasters. She is interested in pop culture, and had chosen the 187-page book "Hillary Duff Stars in 'Raise your Voice.'"
"I have two of her CDs, and I really like Hillary Duff," the fifth-grader said.
Some of the Reading is Fun selections can be used in Hugh Gallagher's accelerated reading program, meaning the students can take a comprehension test and receive bonus reading points. Every grade level came into the library for about 20 minutes to choose a book.
Savana Press, 10, who enjoys the "Goosebumps" series, had chosen the book "Dogs Don't Tell Jokes" by Louis Sachar.
"It seems interesting," she said of the 209-page book. "I like joke books. I'm not saying this is one, but it looks kinda like a sarcastic book."
She is happy to be receiving a free book. She had given away many of her own in a recent move to Alaska. She moved back to Virginia City about six weeks ago.
"I have a big shelf in my room, but it's completely empty," she said.
Brittannee Sherman, 9, picked out author Mary Pope Osborne's "Dolphins at Daybreak," from the Magic Tree series.
She's as excited about having a free book as she is to read about dolphins.
"It's cool (to get a free book)," Brittannee said. "We don't get to do this very much."
Students will have two other opportunities throughout the year to pick out a free book - at Valentine's Day and during spring break. Anyone wishing to help with donations to purchase books, should call the school at 847-0977.
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
Reading is Fundamental
• Reading is Fundamental was established in 1966.
• For information on the program, call 1-877-RIF-READ
On the Net
Reading is Fundamental:
www.rif.org, site includes interactive resources for students and adults.