“How many of you like bugs?” Rachel Glazer asked a group of children.
Several small hands popped into the air.
Glazer, dressed in a green sequin dress, green tights and green antenna, asked the children how they felt about cockroaches. All of the children dropped their hands into their laps almost immediately.
Glazer presented her award-winning dramatic interpretation of “Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale” written by Carmen Agra Deedy on Friday night at the fifth annual 24-Hour Read-A-Thon.
The Read-A-Thon is an annual fundraiser sponsored by the Hall Book Exchange on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville that benefits the Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy.
The fundraiser draws a diverse crowd of people with the shared goal of promoting literacy in the area.
Susan Fraser has attended all of the previous events, even staying through the night on several occasions.
This year she brought her 13-year-old son Billy Fraser. She said staying at the exchange overnight is “a weird experience.”
“It takes on a while different atmosphere in the middle of the night,” Fraser said.
Cynthia Kinsey, a Gainesville State College student majoring in education, brought two of her sons and two nieces to the Read-A-Thon. She said it’s important to instill a love of reading in children but helping adults learn to read through the fundraiser is just as important.
“I know that if you can’t read there are so many things that you’re limited from doing in life. So I hate for anyone not to have that opportunity to spread their wings,” Kinsey said.
The Gainesville State College education club is one of the biggest contributors to the fundraiser. The Col. William Candler Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has also been a major contributor to the fundraiser for the last five years.
The goal for this year’s fundraiser was to raise $3,000. The money will go toward adult literacy programs, all of which are free.
Participants can make a donation of $10 at the desk inside the exchange for the opportunity to meet and listen to more than 15 authors. The Read-A-Thon will continue until 5 p.m. today.
Dorothy Shinafelt, Alliance for Literacy executive director, said the rate of illiteracy is difficult to track.
According to the 2010 Census, 11.5 percent of people over age 25 in Hall County have less than a ninth-grade education, another 12 percent didn’t finish high school.
Shinafelt said the alliance uses those numbers to gauge how many people in the area are unable to read and write.
“In reality, it’s higher than that,” Shinafelt said.
The census numbers do not reflect the education levels of people younger than 25 or those who are not native.
The Alliance for Literacy aims to break the cycle of family illiteracy.
“We know that children raised by an illiterate parent are much more likely to become a high school dropout. It’s snowball effect,” Shinafelt said.
But, she said, most of the students who come through the alliance’s Adult Learning Center are there to better themselves to become a positive role model for their children.
“Our tag line is ‘The greatest gift you can give a child is a parent who can read.’ I think that is what we really try to impress upon our supporters,” Shinafelt said. “That’s how we make a difference in the lives of our students, their children, their employers, the community at large.”