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Meet McNeal's best bookworm

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 4, 2009
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — After having barely set foot inside the McNeal Elementary School media center, 10-year-old Julian Deusch quickly comes to an abrupt halt in front of the fiction book section.

His brown eyes begin to sparkle as he reaches up to the top shelf, grabbing the latest Brian Jacques book and adding it to the growing pile in his arms.

With a love for reading and adventure, Julian spends most of his time perusing the fiction book aisles in search of his next action-packed adventure.

“I like to read because it takes you to other places,” Julian said. “In books there’s more action than when you write. You get to read about creatures, and after I’m done reading I normally play what I read about.”

Since arriving at McNeal two years ago, Julian has quickly become one of the school’s most accelerated readers. So it’s hard to imagine that there was a time not that long ago when the fourth-grader didn’t know any English at all.

Julian moved to the United States from Germany in December 2006. He was 8 years old at the time. Knowing only a few English words, including “ no,” “yes,” “hello,” “apple,” “cat” and “dog,” Julian struggled to communicate with his new teachers and classmates.

“It was scary,” Julian said. “I was crying the first day because I didn’t know any of the English words and I had to read English, which I couldn’t do that well.”

Julian spent the next three months immersed in the English language. He spent time working with teachers in McNeal’s ESOL program and carried a dictionary around with him wherever he went.

Julian quickly began to develop his vocabulary, memorizing as many words as he could and storing them away. Halfway through the school year, Julian had become fluent in English and was able to read and write with the rest of the kids in his class.

Now fluent in both English and German, Julian spends time helping his younger brother, Phillip, 8, with his English studies.

Like his brother, Phillip didn’t know any English when he arrived at McNeal — in fact he knew even less. In Germany, students don’t learn spelling and writing in kindergarten, so Phillip didn’t even know the entire alphabet on his first day of first grade.

“In first grade, we sat in a circle, and the teacher would give us a word and we had to repeat it,” Phillip said. “So, we actually learned a new word every week. I just tried to understand the words and sound the letters out.”

At home, the two brothers talk to each other in English, but aside from talking about school-related matters, the Deusch family often reverts back to its German roots. Outside of school, Julian and Phillip both spend time reading chapter books to improve their language skills.

Every year, the teachers at McNeal set specific Accelerated Reader goals for their students. Those who achieve the goals receive special recognition and are invited to have breakfast with the principal.

This year the fourth-graders were required to earn 250 points while maintaining an 85% comprehension score. Julian accumulated nearly 820 points this year.

“That’s exciting,” McNeal Media Specialist Renee Litzenberger said. “I’ve never seen a student read that much. He’s off the charts.”

For his effort, Julian was awarded a certificate and a first-place accelerated reading trophy — a step up from the second-place trophy he won last year.

“It tells me that I’m a good reader," Julian said of the recognition. “It tells me that I like reading and that I do well during my reading time because I use it well and don’t waste it.”

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].


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