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Adults read; children listen later

Two years ago, Connie Musso enrolled in evening adult education classes at Springstead High School to brush up on her math, reading and English. She wants to earn a high school equivalency diploma so she can get a better job.

At the time, Musso, 65, did not know her training would include reading children's books. But when her teacher, Patsy Byrd, asked her to read The Windy Day, a kindergarten reader, Musso agreed.

She also agreed to tape a story for pupils at Westside Elementary School, where Byrd teaches during the day.

The tape and book, along with other children's reading and educational materials, are on sale at the recently opened Book Worm Book Store at Westside. The store is open from 8:30 to 9 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the school cafeteria.

During the first week, the store made about $100. The money will be used to keep the store stocked. Byrd will continue to supply the store with listening tapes made by her adult education students.

"This is just a perfect situation," she said. "The adults are getting additional practice at improving their skills, and the tapes will help the young children learn how to read."

Spanish tapes are available for pupils learning English. Show and Tell has been taped in Spanish on one side of the tape, and in English on the other. A Spanish and an English version of the book is included in the package.

Byrd's third-graders furnished additional help. They raised about $800, which bought materials to open the store. The store is managed by Barbara Wells' fourth-grade class at Westside.

For their economics project, the Super Scooper Shop, the third-graders raised money by selling plastic laundry soap scoopers filled with candy and small toys. Byrd's adult students donated the scoopers and some of the candy as well, and in return received hand-written thank-you notes from the children.

The notes gave them additional practice in reading, Byrd said.

The bookstore was opened to encourage children to read, said Barbara Wells, the store's primary organizer. She heard about a similar student-managed store in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The store provides a lesson in responsibility for her pupils while offering low-priced reading material for others, she said.

"We're trying to encourage the children to read," she said. "If a child can make the selection on his own and purchase it on his own, he is more likely to take an interest in reading it."

The Book Worm staff includes salesclerks, cashiers and security guards. The material is separated by age group. Each item is marked with a colored sticker that indicates the price.

All items are stamped on the inside cover when bought, and must be cleared through security before they leave the store.

"Children are just amazing," Wells said. "Give them a little responsibility and they always live up to it. They always surprise me in what they are capable of doing."

Stormie Bryan selected a tiny paperback version of The Gingerbread Man during a browse through the store recently. The kindergartener said she liked the book because it was small enough to fit into her petite pocketbook.

"I like books like this," she said. "I can read it by myself and keep it for me."

Other popular items are a wall poster of the United States to color, sports books on superstar Michael Jordan and the 1994 Winter Olympics, joke books and books about the planets.

Security guard Kathleen DiLorenzo checks the books before shoppers leave to make sure they were paid for.

"So far we haven't let any slip by," she said. "As far as we know, that is."