Kaua’i student wins statewide summer reading contest

Kaila Mercado got a big surprise Tuesday afternoon during what she figured was a routine family trip to the Princeville Public Library.

As it turned out, Kaila was awarded the grand prize in the 2002 Hawaii Pizza Hut and Hawaii State Public Library System’s Young Adult Summer Reading Program Sweepstakes.

First, she was given leis and a bunch of balloons, and the look on her face spelled bewilderment.

As she opened a letter delivered in a pizza delivery box by district manager Kyle Wong, her eyes widened and she gasped as she read the description of her reading prize: a $1,000 shopping spree at the Pearlridge Shopping Center on O’ahu on Aug. 16.

She and her mom, Deanna Kopp, will fly to Honolulu International Airport and drive out to Pearlridge, where Kaila will spend the day shopping. She said she plans to buy clothes and makeup.

“It feels like I’m dreaming,” Kaila said.

Pizza Hut Hawaii has sponsored the Young Adult Summer Reading Program since 1992, as a partnership with the Hawai’i State Public Library System to encourage teens and young adults to read.

Deanna and Kaila’s sister, Brianne Donnelly, found out about Kaila’s prize last week when Princeville Public Library’s branch manager Lani Kawahara, let them in on the secret.

Keeping the secret from Kaila for nine days was one of the hardest things she ever had to do, Kopp said.

Kaila read four books during the six-week reading program, including three “Nancy Drew” classic mystery books, her favorites. The other book she read this summer was “Island of the Blue Dolphin”, which follows the story of a young tribal girl who lives alone on a deserted island for 18 years.

Kaila, who is 12, is set to enter seventh grade at Kauai Christian Academy in the fall. Her hobbies include surfing, volleyball and basketball. She said it was her first year to sign up for the Young Adult Summer Reading Program.

After youth sign up they don’t even have to read a book to be able to win, but we hope they would keep coming back to the library, said Lynn Masumoto, Hawai’i State Public Libraries branch director.

The second prize winner is Stuart Ooka of Le Jardin Academy, and third prize went to Vanshj Seth of the Honolulu Waldorf School.

Winners were chosen from about 3,400 entries submitted at state libraries across the state, said a Pizza Hut statement.

The Young Adult Summer Reading Program Sweepstakes is open to Hawai’i residents ages 12-18, entering grades 7-12. Young adult readers may enter at any public library in the state.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei may be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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