Read to Achieve
By Barry Rubinstein

Gregory Hines and Summer Sanders took a journey back to their childhoods on Monday. They didn't need a time machine, virtual reality or any other high-tech helping hand. All they did was open a book.

For Hines, the noted actor and dancer, and Sanders, the co-host of NBA Inside Stuff, the journey came during a session of WNBA Read to Achieve presented by American Express, part of the activities at Summer Jam outside the TD Waterhouse Centre.

"My favorite book as a kid was The Jungle Book,," said Hines, who along with Sanders read Amazing Grace to a group of 20 children from WOWS and Miracle of Love, two organizations that benefit youngsters from the Orlando area. "It's so interesting, too, because the character Mowgli was mentioned in Amazing Grace, and it brought me right back to it. I loved it."

Read to Achieve is aimed at promoting literacy and helping children and their families develop a life-long love for reading.

"It's a wonderful thing to be a part of," Sanders said. "So many of the kids look at the pictures and they'll shout things out and they want so badly to answer questions and one of the kids here wanted to read along so much today. It's just a joy. It's a complete pleasure to, for 15 minutes, be a kid again."

Sanders' favorite book as a girl was "one called The Adventures of Rudy Kazootie. I don't even think it's in print anymore. It had a character named Polka Dottie, with this evil guy that came along and stole all the polka dots off her stuff. My mom read it to us several times. At events like this, everyone tells me to go get it and no one can find it. I know I have it somewhere."

Also participating in Monday's reading session were Carla McGhee of the Orlando Miracle, along with Anne Hathaway and Heather Matarazzo, stars of the upcoming Disney film The Princess Diaries.

"Reading played a huge role in my life growing up," said Hathaway, who enjoyed The Secret Garden and Eloise as a youngster. "I wasn't necessarily the most popular kid and I really escaped through books, and it really helped me explore a whole different side to myself and to learn about different worlds. It's an invaluable tool to have in life, to be able to read and read well. So I love this program because it really teaches kids the importance of that."

"I always loved to read," said Matarazzo, whose favorite book as a child was Little Women. "My mom encouraged me, so I'd read a lot of books -- big ones and ones I didn't understand, and I'd reread them. It helps kids learn a lot, and go different places that you can't go in realms of TV or film or music."

And for the rest of their lives, they can go back to those places again and again, as many times as they want.