The following blog post was written by Renee Sarno, Community Events Coordinator.
“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable spelled out sparkles,” – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
In 1999, I was in 4th grade at P.S. 45. My school was one of 78 schools that participated in the Readers Are Leaders challenge, which was in its third year and run by then-Councilman Vito Fossella. I remember being told there would be one winner for the whole 4th grade, which was about 6 classes. I read every possible book I could. At the time, Harry Potter had just been released, and I read and reread Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets three times that year. I usually read at least two books at a time, and my mom would always ask how I was able to keep them straight in my head. Another popular book that had just been released that year was Holes by Louis Sachar, and it was one of my favorites.
Thanks to my voracious reading habits, I wound up winning the Readers Are Leaders challenge for P.S. 45. Out of all the 4th graders and all of the books reports, I was chosen, and I was so happy! The ceremony for the winners was held at the Petrides School that year. I got to meet winners from schools around the Island as I proudly represented my school.
Fast forward to 2016: I had just started working as an events coordinator for Borough President Oddo, who now ran the program. The kickoff ceremony, which had been planned prior to my start at Borough Hall, was being held at P.S. 45, exactly where I won the challenge 17 years earlier. As we walked the halls of the school, it felt as if I had never left. I had an amazing experience in elementary school, and being back there felt like coming home again. We walked past my 4th grade classroom, and Principal Chavez couldn’t believe I remembered what room it was. I was still so proud to represent my school almost 20 years later.
Talk about life coming full circle. I am honored to work on Readers Are Leaders, a program that had such an impact on my life. I hope that the children participating this year, the 21st year of the program, learn the joy and value of reading the way that I did.