It's hard to find April Gillis without a book in her hands. They're her doorway to other worlds. And if she's not reading, she's writing about those places in the imagination where a 10-year-old might easily find herself with friends, horses or other assorted creatures.
The fifth-grader last year received the highest FCAT grade in writing at JD Floyd Elementary, as well as the highest achievement levels in reading and math.
"April reads anywhere and everywhere," said her mother, Cheryl Gillis. "She's got a book in the backseat of the car, going to school with a flashlight if it's dark. She picked up a book at Wal-Mart, a new one for her series, and she read it walking down the aisle."
Series books are her favorite, like the Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books. Her only complaint with them, according to her mother, is that the authors don't write fast enough.
Sometimes April fills in the gaps by writing her own stories.
"I like to write things about children who are having fun or things that relate to my life, the things that I want to do someday," April says.
And what she'd like most to do someday is "live on a ranch with horses," she said. Until then, she's happy reading about them in the Heartland series about horses and family relationships.
"April has been reading from the time she could pick up a book," her mother said. "I consider reading, when they're little, to be looking at the pictures and making out the story even though they can't read the words."
Last year, April won a $40 Red Lobster gift certificate for being the top reading achiever in the school's Accelerated Reader program, an honor she has won for two consecutive years. The program encourages reading by offering prizes to students who read books at or above their level and take a computerized comprehension test.
April also has her own star in J.D. Floyd Elementary's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The names painted on the Star Walk honor students with notable achievements.
Favorite Book: Zenda, about a girl who lives on a make-believe planet
Hobbies: Reading, puzzles and basketball
Favorite subject: Math
Family: April; her mother, Cheryl; and sister, Annie, 13, live in Spring Hill
For the second year, Flammer Ford is providing an incentive for Hernando County juniors and seniors to reach for A's and B's or perfect attendance in exchange for a chance to win a 2005 Ford Focus ZX3. Students can enter the drawing after each marking period by bringing in their report cards to Flammer Ford on Commercial Way in Spring Hill and filling out the entry forms. A name will be drawn in May.
Information for Class Notes and Newsmakers must include a contact name and phone number. Submit to Valerie Taylor, Hernando Times, 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613 or fax to (352) 754-6133 or e-mail to topoftheclassearthlink.net.