Tripling last year's word score

COSTA MESA — With her baby next to her in a stroller, Lisa Morris stood on a stool in front of a first-grade class reading a picture book, "Pancakes, Pancakes!" by Eric Carle, about the trials of making the hearty breakfast food on a farm.

"This is hard work making pancakes, huh?" she asked the students.

Morris was one of nearly 20 volunteers who went into the classroom to read books Friday afternoon for the fourth annual Reading Celebration at Pomona Elementary School.

The day was the culmination of a year's worth of reading more than 26,280 books.

That translates to more than 55 million words — almost triple what the school read last year, said Martha Felix, the school's technology coordinator, who co-organized the event with second-grade teacher Summer Postiff.

Awards were also given out to the school's best readers, including sixth-grade student Sergio Reyna, who was the top reader.

"The celebration is affirming a tremendous well done by all the students," said Principal Stacy Holmes.

The celebration was especially sweet for Pomona, where 95% of its students are English-language learners, Felix said.

Reading helps the English learners grow their vocabulary, increase comprehension and "has a domino effect into so many other areas of their learning," she said.

For first-grade student Michelle Vargas, a lover of the classic "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," learning new words is exactly why she likes to read.

The event was a success for the 7-year-old.

"It was the best reading I have ever heard," she said.

At the celebration, the school also said goodbye to Holmes, who is retiring.

After the tremendous applause, whistles and shouts for him died down, Holmes told the students that although he was leaving, he still wanted them to do something.

Everyone knew the answer.

"Read," yelled hundreds of students, finishing his sentence.

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