Dawn Hunter scrunched her knees under the ballooned out T-shirt, and in celery-crisp tones shot back the answers.
Dog's name? "N-I-P-S-Y."
Good. Now what type of book do you want? Adventure? Fiction?
"No, I want a book just about myself. But no pictures. This is a serious book."
Pretty heady stuff for this youngster from Fairfax County's Oakton Elementary School. But at the Reading Rally last weekend at Tysons Corner shopping center -- with more than 100 county schools participating and with what appeared to be most of their students there -- kids were the consumers and they got what they asked for. There were Pinocchio puppet shows and computers, gingerbread cookies and big people in bunny suits.
In Dawn's case, what she got was a hand-bound book, "All About Dawn," with herself truly in the star-ring role. It was just what Dawn requested -- eight pages of a tale, inked in turquoise, that began with Dawn and her best friend and concluded with Dawn and her school. In between, she got Dawn and her dog Nipsy and Dawn and her best color red.
The only thing missing was Dawn as she looked now; her translucent milky skin dotted with a few stray marks of green ink from a felt-tip pen.
"It's really been almost like a babysitting service," laughed reading specialist Karen Hutcheson, of Dogwood Elementary School, as she supervised the clusters of youngsters jockeying for their members to be written by one of Hutchenson's sixth-grade students. About two hours through the rally sponsored by the Fairfax Education Association, Hutchenson already had clipped enough paper for more than 30 books.
Hutchenson's program, like many of the programs featured at the rally designed to encourage reading, is one that faces curtailment in the impending Reagan budget. Under Hutcheson's direction, sixth graders at the Reston school regularly write books for younger students.
"Children need to learn that reading is just speech written down," Hutcheson explained. "They see that whatever they say can be put in books.
"It makes reading and writing enjoyable for them, and that's the bottom line."
Not far from the Dogwood exhibit, Ginny Fant of Hunt Valley Elementary School was using a more delectable ploy to lure readers. Like the Pied Piper leading the children to the mountain, Fant snagged a gaggle of admirers with the spicy smell of gingerbread -- baking in a toaster oven.
"We read to eat," boomed Fant to the ravenous-looking bunch in front of her. But, she continued smugly, "it's a make-and-take gingerbread, and you've got to read the story first."
"That's right Jennifer. You've got to do something for it," one father teased. Undaunted, the daughter gave one quick sigh, stood steadfastly in line and quickly read the abbreviated version of the Gingerbread Man.
Jennifer quickly got her reward, and Dad didn't even get a nibble