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(12/02/04 5:00am)

In second grade, my teacher prompted us to enter BOOK IT!—a competition where you read books for points that earned you a free pizza at Pizza Hut. Ecstatic that I could I could combine two of my favorite pastimes—eating and reading—I delved into the eccentric world of that zany housekeeper Amelia Bedelia, that magical babysitter Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and my all time favorite crime-fighting orphans, the Boxcar Kids, earning my way toward many a free personal pan pizza. Reading was an activity where I could transcend my mundane polo shirt, plaid skort life whose most exciting exploits included struggling to memorize times tables and swapping stickers to obtain the “greatest sticker collection ever.” “Reading,” as the corny free bookmarks they passed out at the library said, “was an adventure.”

Baby steps for equality

(09/30/04 4:00am)

As the elections approach and I glumly realize that a woman has still not become president, I’ve begun thinking a lot about gender stereotypes and equality for women. But wait! Before half of my readers flip the page and become engrossed with finding a four-letter synonym for “aspersion,” stop. You play a part in this as well (and not just as a source of the problem either). You also have the power to create a fairer, more educated society through simple steps that can have great impact.

Remember the magic word

(09/09/04 4:00am)

Eat with your mouth closed!” “Say please!” “Keep your elbows off the table!” These are just some of the typical phrases that bombarded me in my youth as I sat down for a meal with my family. “It isn’t fair,” I thought, as I drank some Juicy Juice from my plastic sip cup. After all, it wasn’t as if Chick-a-saurus (chicken in the shape of your favorite dinosaurs!) could be considered fine dining, so I didn’t understand why we had to act like we were in an elegant restaurant. But it was the principle of the thing, my parents told me. If I didn’t learn to eat or behave correctly now, then I never would in the future.