‘Feed Your Need to Read’ Week kicks off annual Read-a-Thon

Juniors Ellie Hagen (left) and Alyssa Olvera eat their lunches and listen to author Kelly Baker talk about his book “My Name is Lazarus” and give writing tips.

Erin Schilling, News Editor

Normally, students eating in the Media Center is unheard of, but Media Specialist, LeighAnne Hanie, decided to bend the rules a bit to provide a week that combined  literary talks and lunch.

Hanie planned “Feed Your Need to Read” Week with the Ex Libris officers and co-sponsor, Lela Crowder, as a three-day drum roll leading up to the annual Ex Libris Read-a-Thon, which was held Friday, Jan. 23, and to promote reading across the school. They made it a “BYOL” event and welcomed students during all three lunches to celebrate reading through crafts, author talks and prizes.

Festivities began on Tuesday, Jan. 20, with a video by John Green, best-selling young adult author and YouTube star, about the importance of reading and the affects it had on his life. Students watched the video and ate lunch with their friends while making bookmarks. Half sheets of scrapbook paper and glue were the only supplies needed to make these bookmarks. Students folded the paper, following a diagram, and created small triangles that hug the corner of book pages.

“The little bookmarks were so cute and easy,” junior Ellie Hagen said. “I made a couple for me and my sister.”

Wednesday brought local author Kelly Baker, a former English teacher who is currently the media specialist at Whitewater, to the Media Center to talk with students about his debut novel “My Name is Lazarus,” one of  Ex Libris’ February book choices. Hanie hoped that having students hear him talk about his book and the writing process would encourage them to read it.

“The speaker was really interesting and he had some good writing tips,” junior Alyssa Olvera said. Baker talked about the importance of having an honest editor and emphasized the necessities of writing many drafts.

Junior Andrea Rathje agreed with Olvera. “Mr. Baker talked about the importance of dedication in your writing,” she said. Rathje, who went to the library all week for lunch, said she enjoyed all the speakers and liked the change in scenery during her lunchtime. 

On Thursday, Hanie coordinated a book swap. Participants brought a variety of genres ranging from “The Host” by Stephanie Meyer to “The Giver” by Lois Lowery. Of course, the classics were represented too.   “I got ‘Tale of Two Cities’ so I’d say it was a success,” junior Regan Romuno said. “We read it last year, and I loved it. I had been wanting my own copy for a while.”

Ex Libris president, Lydia Powell, baked cookies for the attendees and Hanie gave away TCBY coupons to book club members who wore their Ex Libris T-shirts. She held drawings for everything from coupons to movie posters to candy and encouraged students to bring friends throughout the week.  “We got a couple new members [out of this],” Hanie said.

Ex Libris members Rathje and Hagen encouraged Olvera to go, and she said the week made her want to join the club.

Ten to 15 students attended each lunch during the week. Hanie hoped to have more students attend, but other activities prohibited more involvement. Hagen attended “Feed Your Need to Read” Week on Tuesday and Wednesday but not on Thursday and Friday because chorus obligations filled her lunch period those days.  “I would have gone if it wasn’t for District Honor Chorus and my All-State audition,” she said.

Friday, the students had the opportunity to Skype with Cristin Terrill, author of “All Our Yesterdays.” Ex Libris members read her young adult novel as one of their December picks. “The author being there on Skype was cool,” junior Kacey Yonkovitz said, “and it was fun to see and talk to the author of the book I read.”

Even Hanie and Crowder jumped on the chance to talk to Terrill. Crowder asked questions about the importance of young adult literature and its credibility in today’s society.

While the “Feed Your Need to Read” Week was open to all students during the three lunches, the last hurrah of the week was open only to Ex Libris members. Once the final 3:45 bell rang on Friday, Ex Libris members flocked to the Media Center to begin their annual Read-a-Thon. 

Rathje and 16 of her fellow book club members gathered with blankets, pillows and piles of books and read for five hours with a 30-minute dinner break. “This year it was small, but quality,” Hanie said. “It seemed like everyone was enjoying what they were reading.”

Each year, Hanie and the book club officers choose a literary charity to support with money raised through the Read-a-Thon. Beforehand, members of the club ask for pledges of either a set amount of money or a donation per page read. This year’s charity is Child Aid in Guatemala, which provides books and literacy training for teachers and librarians. This is the first Central American charity the club has sponsored, Hanie said.

Overall, the 17 members of Ex Libris read 7,500 pages in the five-hour period. They raised just over $1,000 this year, surpassing last year’s amount by about $200, Hanie said.

Even though they hoped for more participation, Hanie and Crowder thought the week was successful.

“The kids who participated told me how much they enjoyed it,” Hanie said, “but next year we’re planning on having a day celebration rather than a week.” She said this would be easier to manage, and she thinks students will be more willing to “feed their need to read” if the event didn’t take up an entire week.