Hometown heroes share passion for reading books
U.S. Army Sgt. Heath Borland, who recently returned from service in Afghanistan, reads to Michelle Willis’ kindergarten class at Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary Feb. 28. (U. Frank Williams Jr./AFN)

Firefighters, police officers, Olympic athletes, soldiers, doctors and more descended upon Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary School Feb. 28 to add another heroic activity to their already-noble resumes: reading to kids. As a precursor to Read Across America Day, a national celebration of literacy held on the March 2 birthday of Dr. Seuss, Sierra invited about 30 hometown heroes from the Ahwatukee Foothills area to visit and talk about how reading has helped them become the heroes they are. "I like to read history books," said Sgt. Heath Borland, home after a tour with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. "It helps me to learn. I like to learn; it makes me smarter." Hometown heroes came from all across Ahwatukee Foothills, Chandler and Phoenix to help celebrate the 50th publishing anniversary of the literary colossus The Cat In the Hat. Some heroes were well-known, like Arizona Cardinals punter Scott Player, who read a sports-themed book. "I read a book forwarded by Michael Jordan, called Michael's Golden Rule," said Player, who read to kindergartners and fourth-graders. "I had a good time, and I think the kids did too. I think the fourth-graders were more interested in asking football questions." Other heroes don't get TV time on Sunday, but were every bit as noteworthy. Altadena Middle School seventh-grader Taylor Berey took a bar mitzvah charity project and turned it into big dividends for the Tempe Thomas J. Pappas School for the homeless. "I baked my own dog treats from my kitchen and watched dogs for people," Berey said. "Some people gave donations and I ended up raising over $12,000." The impressive amount of money will be used to send Pappas kids to the zoo, and any remaining money will go toward a scholarship fund to help the kids buy school books. "I used to go here, and my fifth-grade teacher and gifted resources teacher heard about me and thought it would be cool if I'd come and read," Berey said. "I read the kids some stories from Aesop's Fables and shared some crackers, because of what I did, and I read my favorite book, Always Wear Clean Underwear." Jeni Roberts' third-graders got a treat when Amanda Bordon, Chandler resident and 1996 Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, stopped in to read. "I love doing stuff like this; sharing my experience and hopefully inspiring some kids," Bordon said. "Maybe not to go to the Olympics, but just inspire them to chase their dreams." It seems to have worked. When Bordon was standing to leave, Roberts addressed her young wards. "Wasn't that inspirational?" Roberts asked, drawing a chorus of affirmatives. "So what are we going to do if we try something and it doesn't work?" "Try again!" the students' 30 voices sang back. The event at Sierra was organized by PTO parents Ann Marie Braun and Marianne Luken. Getting that many busy people to show up at the same time on the same day was no small task, Braun said, and organizing everything took a good month. Still, she said, it paid off. "We want each kid to have a passion and a love for reading, and we're trying to get the community involved as well."

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