- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
A few years ago my former mentee, Kelly Andreoni, an English teacher and advisor to our school's book club, came up with a wonderful plan for an event that would not only only encourage students to read, but also raise money in a unique form of community service: a Read-A-Thon. This year, over 150 students took part, raising over $9,200 for a charitable organization called "Raising a Reader MA," which promotes literacy awareness among families in communities across the state, including our own city of Revere. Read on to see how Kelly organizes this fun and worthwhile event.
The Read-A-Thon occurs annually on a Friday from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. In order to participate, students have to register and then line up sponsors to donate at least $25.00. In addition to earning nine community service hours toward their graduation requirement (of 26 hours), participating students gain a sense of satisfaction from supporting the Raising a Reader program and helping improve the lives of young people by spreading the habit of lifelong reading.
Students cannot merely show up at the event and expect to participate. In order to keep track of attendees, students must have their student ID, as their names are checked from a list of sponsored students who have returned their signed permission forms.
The process goes like this: when students arrive, they are divided into two groups. Each group receives a colored wristband, either pink or blue. One group heads to the school's auditorium, where they read quietly for one hour. Students sit in every other row, with a few seats separating them to insure space and quiet time for every student. Teachers from all subject areas take part in the event, some reading in armchairs on the stage, and some intermingled with students. It is an absolute joy to walk into the auditorium and see so many students and teachers reading silently together.
Meanwhile, the other group of students is in the cafeteria, where we have music, games, and food (some free and some for sale). This helps students "recharge their reading batteries," as Kelly says. The students dance to video games, sing karaoke, play Rock Band, and relax and talk with their friends. This year, some of the middle school teachers volunteered to help, and students were so happy to reconnect with their teachers from previous years and fill them in on their college acceptances and high school experiences.
At all times, students are supervised by high school faculty members and parent volunteers. No one is permitted to leave early or arrive late. This ensures the safety of all participants.
I enjoyed reading quietly with the students and then watching them cut loose in the cafeteria. At one point, a rousing game of musical chairs took place — who knew high school students could have so much fun playing a game from their childhood? I also sampled dishes from many different cultures, including Cambodian egg rolls, Spanish chicken and rice, and Italian chicken, ziti, and broccoli. There were plenty of brownies, cupcakes, and cookies for late night snacks.
But what I enjoyed most about the Read-A-Thon was going around the cafeteria and seeing what books the students were reading. There was a wide range of reading material, from books about political science and religion to science fiction, mystery, and humor. Of course, The Hunger Games Trilogy was a popular selection, as were classics like Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird. Historical fiction pieces such as Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson and Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse were also prevalent. And, as you would imagine, the vampires and supernatural elements — in books such as The Vampire Is Just Not That Into You and Disappearance — were popular choices, as well. It was exciting to see so many genres of books represented. I've actually added some books to my own summer reading list based on recommendations from my students.
The Read-A-Thon is a wonderful evening of collegiality, fun, and READING. I applaud my fellow English teacher, Kelly, for staging such a huge, well-organized, and totally enjoyable event. The Read-A-Thon helps students understand the joys of reading, as well as the importance of fund-raising. AWESOME JOB, KEL! Can't wait for next year's!