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Up all night: Read-A-Thon raises money for literacy

POSTED: October 24, 2009 12:14 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Lisa MacKinney reads to her son Jefferson, 4, at the Hall Book Exchange Friday afternoon during their 24-hour Read-A-Thon to raise money for local literacy. The Read-A-Thon will be held Friday and Saturday at Hall Book Exchange on Thompson Bridge Road.

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Some marathons don’t require months of athletic training.

The second annual 24-hour Read-A-Thon at Hall Book Exchange didn’t even require a warm-up.

Participants of all ages read silently for as many hours as they chose starting Friday evening. Door prizes and goodies were offered, as well as plenty of coffee.

Over 110 readers obtained sponsors who donated $10 for every hour of reading. The proceeds benefit the Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy, a United Way of Hall County partnership agency that helps 2,000 adults learn to read each year.

“I think that the written word is one of the most important things in our culture,” said Dorothy Shinafelt, the executive director of the Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy. “The first few years of our lives, we learn to read and then we read to learn, and without that capability, you are almost a capsule — you can’t learn about what is going on around you.”

There will be seven authors present today at the Read-A-Thon who will read aloud from their books, have question and answer sessions, and sign autographs. The proceeds from their sales will be donated to the alliance.

The idea to have a Read-A-Thon originated last year when Myra Meade, the owner of Hall Book Exchange, was looking for something to do for her company’s 25th anniversary. She heard about other stores hosting Read-A-Thons and decided to try it herself.

“It is just a really cool way to raise awareness for literacy,” Meade said. “Twenty-nine percent of Hall county is illiterate. That’s a huge, huge, huge number.”

Meade hopes to continue hosting the Read-A-Thon for years to come, and she encourages people to help support the event.

“It is just like any other cause,” Meade said. “The more people that help, the more successful we will be. We’re looking for people that want to help others and make the quality of life better.”

Lynda Holmes, the Literacy Promotion Chairwoman representing the Colonel William Candler Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was ready and excited to start reading on Friday evening.

Holmes explains that the donations make a big difference in helping a couple thousand people become literate.

She chose to read from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday and brought numerous books with her, including a few that focus on the American Revolution.

Laura Franz, a Gainesville State College student who is involved in the Early Childhood Education program, also chose to be a part of the Read-A-Thon.

Franz participates in an education club at Gainesville State, which helps get students involved in community events, such as the Read-A-Thon.

Franz was going to choose a book off a shelf to read, like she did the previous year. That decision last year got her hooked on Twilight. Franz said that she was able to read about 300 pages in one sitting.

Through the Early Childhood Education program Franz observes kindergarten and first grade classrooms, and she has been able to see the vocabulary of the children broaden as they read more.

“It is crazy how much they can pick up from reading and practicing,” Franz said.

But no matter what your age is, being able to read is extremely important, even when it comes to simple things that most people don’t think about, such as being able to read road signs and directions.

“You just can’t put a price tag on literacy,” Holmes said.


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