Submitted by Shelley Renee, Read-A-Thon Program Manager
As I drive around the Austin area visiting schools to promote the 2014 Read-A-Thon I hear so many stories from librarians about the joy that reading brings their students.
I recently visited an elementary school that participates in BookSpring’s Read-A-Thon and Reading is Fundamental (RIF) programs. I arrived a little early and had the opportunity to watch a Reading is Fundamental book distribution for 1st graders. The librarian chose “Reading is Magic” as her theme and checked out a motivational kit with props and activities from BookSpring. She expertly interwove magic tricks with comments about how reading is magic because it can transport you to new places. The children were amazed as she made balls disappear and reappear and guessed the color of a card that one child picked out of a pack. The only disappointment was that of one boy who asked if she could turn him into a dog.
After the magic show, the students picked out their forever books and wrote their names in them. Since coming to BookSpring in July I have heard many descriptions of RIF distributions and have been moved by them, but seeing one in person really drove home how effective our program is. In this age of iPads and Kindles it is sometimes easy to forget how powerful owning a book can be to a child – especially a child who may not have many, or any, books at home. The kids at the RIF distribution I saw were delighted to receive their books. They did not know I was there until they turned a corner to wait to go back to their classroom. They sat on the floor and read their books. One girl read her book to me while another handed me her book so I could read it. One boy was very excited and ran up to me to tell me that he had gotten his very own new book. He asked the librarian if he had to bring it back. When she told him no, he asked if he could fall asleep with it and she told him yes. This was particularly touching because I remember my son tucking into his bed the things he wanted nearby while he slept. The things children fall asleep with are the things they prize the most. Reading is Fundamental is just one of BookSpring’s early literacy programs that Read-A-Thon funds.
The 2014 Read-A-Thon runs from January 27 to February 7. We are delighted that our Presenting Sponsor is once again Howdy Honda and we truly appreciate their commitment to early literacy. Our media sponsor is KXAN, who gave us a huge amount of airtime in 2013 and sent news anchors to visit Read-A-Thon schools. Silicon Labs is another returning sponsor, as is H-E-B Tournament of Champions. New to Read-A-Thon this year is BMC Software, who we are very glad to have joining us.
In addition, we have wonderful incentives again this year. Donors of incentives include Amy’s Ice Cream, Gatti’s Pizza and Whataburger. Helping us get the ball rolling on all of the behind-the-scenes Read-A-Thon tasks are a number of great supporters including John Reese for database expertise, REEDESIGN for graphics and collateral material design, River City Sportswear for great T-shirt design services and Danny Reed Advertising for help getting the word out about our Read-A-Thon Art Contest.
We couldn’t do it without the help of our donors, volunteers, Read-A-Thon coordinators and readers. I hope you will join us in Read-A-Thon this year. Whether you promote it to your neighborhood school or book club, coordinate a group to participate, sponsor, or participate as a reader yourself, you will help put books into the hands of kids who may not otherwise have them.