“My favorite part was seeing the Sharkie mascot climbing over the glass walls and messing up other people’s hair,” said Hana Zhou, 7, of Top Reader Day. “Sharkie was also [hitting] my head with his nose and taking away other people’s hats.”
On March 10, Zhou visited the SAP Center where the San Jose Sharks played against the Washington Capitals. Zhou was photographed on the ice for an image that would later be shown on the arena’s video board during the ice hockey match. She toured the building, hung out in the Penthouse Suite and high-fived players from the Sharks. Zhou was one of 10 students selected out of 40,000 students being honored at Top Reader Day, hosted by Reading Is Cool, a K-5 literacy program run by the Sharks. Zhou was the only student from the Santa Clara Unified School District selected for this honor.
“Top Reader Day acknowledges how hard students have worked and it gives them a special experience as a reward,” said Amber Cottle, Sharks Marketing Coordinator. “We’re in our 20th season of the Reading Is Cool Program. In the 1,300 classrooms, we have approximately 40,000 students who participate each year. These 1,300 classrooms come from the Santa Clara County and the lower Alameda County. Teachers register their classroom for the program. The program runs from October through April, which coincides with the hockey season.”
Back in February, participating teachers received an email from the Reading Is Cool program asking them to nominate a student in their class who is either the most dedicated to reading, who has grown in their reading level throughout the year or who has put a lot of effort into their reading. The teachers had to submit their nomination with a small paragraph about their student.
“We read all the submissions and we chose a top reader from every grade level, from kindergarten to fifth grade, and four additional students,” Cottle said.
Alice Williams, a first-grade teacher at Don Callejon School, is grateful for the Sharks’ commitment to serving youth in the community through its Reading Is Cool program. Williams nominated Zhou for recognition at Top Reader Day and was ecstatic that Zhou was selected.
“She has found a sense of humor and a best friend in books,” Williams said about her student. “The most focused and self-disciplined part of the day for this active, talkative and unfiltered kid is during independent reading time. The only sound you hear is her laughing out loud.”
According to Zhou, she’d read thousands of pages in a short span of time during this school year. Zhou shared that she feels sad when reading the sad parts of a story and she feels happy during the happy parts.
“I like Mo Willems books and the Rainbow Magic Special Edition books,” Zhou said. “The Mo Willems books have great illustrations and even though there aren’t that many words on the pages, the stories are very funny. In the Rainbow Magic books, you have to find the letters hidden in the pictures and then you have to spell them out to make a magic word.”
Zhou offered sound advice to reluctant readers on how they can find books more enjoyable.
“You can find things you like in books,” she said. “For example, if you like princesses, you can find princesses in Barbie books.”