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For the Love of Books

Retired professor encourages Grant pupils to read a million pages


Thursday, December 16, 2004

By Maureen Nolan Staff writer

Andrew Edwards, 14, is one of the pistons driving Grant Middle School's engine toward the school goal to read a million pages by June. The eighth-grader has racked up more than 4,173 pages.

Last week, Edwards accomplished a personal reading goal, with help from an older reader and book lover. He had been saving up to buy the sixth installment in the Harry Potter series of books when it comes out.

Last weekhe received a $10 gift card, plus a 20 percent discount, for Borders books at Carousel Center. The gift came from Frank Maraviglia, who lives on the North Side and is professor emeritus from the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Maraviglia has what it takes to be a major asset to Grant Middle's effort. He has read about 10,000 books on creativity, problem solving and management, his areas of expertise.

Even though he's too old to go to Grant, Maraviglia is helping the cause. After he read a newspaper story about Grant pupils' love of books, he was inspired to support the young readers.

With helpfrom Borders, Maraviglia came up with 20 $10 gift cards and donated them to Grant. Teacher Kristen Commisso, the prime mover in the million page project, selected the top page readers from each grade at Grant to receive the cards, and Maraviglia came to the school last week to hand them out.

The gift card should be enough to put Edwards over the top. If he can hang on to it, he should be able to afford the next Potter tome when it comes out.

"With this, I have $30 now," he said when he collected his card.

Sixth-grader Destynee Raines was another called down to the office after class to received a card. She didn't know who Maraviglia was ("Um, the mayor?") or why he was handing out gift cards, but she was glad to be going to Borders.

"I like to read. Next to drawing, it's my favorite thing," said Destynee, who wants to buy an "anime" book. That's Japanese animation.

Commissoand Principal Gwendolyn McKinnon were delighted with Maraviglia's gift as well. They made sure he signed all the gift cards and shook hands with each of the 20 pupils.

"We've been trying to tell the kids the more you read, the more you succeed," McKinnon said.

"I agree with that," said Maraviglia, who retired in 2002 from SUNY ESF where he was a professor of landscape architecture. He still does some teaching there.

When Maravigliawas in fifth grade, he earned a certificate for reading 50 books. His favorites when he was young were books by Jack London, a book about the Tuskegee Airmen and anything about George Washington Carver. These days he has about 10,000 nonfiction books at home.

Maraviglia has donated books to St. John the Evangelist Church, Central Technical Vocational Center and the Onondaga County library, among other places. He hopes to give Grant's library books about landscaping, drafting and other subjects from his ESF office.

Meanwhile, Grant's reading effort is speeding forward. The day Maraviglia handed out the gift cards, the number of pages read had risen to 228,356.

Library media specialist Jean VanDoren said the focus on reading has changed behaviors at school. Specifically, she said, Grant is filled with constant discussions between adults and children about books.

Even her own behavior has changed. VanDoren is watching less television.

"I read a hundred pages a night now because I was embarrassed not to be one of the top readers," she said.

© 2004 The Post-Standard.

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