OGDEN -- Jeff Stephens dropped by MarLon Hills Elementary School on Friday to share a story about a lone piece of rice.
Stephens, the superintendent of Weber School District, stopped by teacher Carolee Pickett's sixth-grade class to award certificates for students who completed the summer reading program and to read the children's book "One Grain of Rice: a Mathematical Folk Tale," by singled-named author Demi.
In the story, set in India, a young girl tricks the raja into giving her a grain of rice, and doubling the amount every day for a month. After a month of daily doubling, she has enough rice to sustain her village through the famine.
"It's about the difference one person can make, and about the importance of math," Stephens said. "If you understand math, you will always have the advantage in life."
The equation for books might be reading + practice = proficiency + dreams. So said Weber School Board member Cheryl Ferrin after she finished reading to a class down the hall.
"I went to Africa this summer because when I was in elementary school, I loved reading books about animals," Ferrin said.
In all, 4,900 children in the Weber School District took on the summer challenge of reading 1,000 pages or 10 books at their grade level. Stephens hand-signed a certificate of achievement for each one. Stephens and WSD board members spent last week and will spend this week delivering certificates and reading to classes. The books they read then are given to the school libraries.
Ferrin's book was "Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don't)," by Barbara Bottner.
"I don't know that I ever need to read this particular book again," Ferrin said, with a laugh. "I've read it so many times now, I don't need to look at the pages."
District spokesman Nate Taggart is an avid reader as well.
"It's funny, in every book I read, the hero always looks like me," he said, with a smile.
Jane Ann Bitton, district curriculum director, said students who don't read during the summer can lose several years' worth of education benefits over the course of their school years.
"Maintaining your skills over the summer allows them to accumulate," she said. "If you don't read, you lose."
Parents and children who skipped summer reading should make it a habit now, Bitton said.
"The more you read, the better you get," she said. "For parents, it's a wonderful opportunity to sit down with your children and share. The more we read, the smarter we get."
Sixth-grader Katie Katz, 11, said the summer reading program is a great idea.
"It's a good way to motivate people to read," she said, adding that she would have read all summer, regardless.
Ferrin said she often is met with looks of disbelief when she tells children that books are more interesting than video games.
"You never know where books will take you," she said. "They took me to Africa, where I slept in a tent next to elephants.
"I got my dreams in elementary school. These kids are getting their dreams now."