By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Read-A-Thon helps promote reading for life
Event is part of National Make A Difference Day
Author Renea Winchester reads from her book “In the Garden with Billy” at the Hall Book Exchange.

Alliance for Literacy’s Read-A-Thon
When: through 5 p.m. today
Where: Hall Book Exchange, 1854 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
Contact: 770-532-6693,,,

Author schedule
Today: 11 a.m., Dennis Winstead, Walton Young, Melody Scott; noon, Joseph Scott Morgan; 1 p.m., Braxton Cosby, Shane Etter; 2 p.m., Elizabeth Dulemba, L. Charles Bertone

“There’s nothing like a book.”

Judy Pannell tapped the bookshelf next to her lightly as she said those words Friday evening, surrounded by fellow book lovers to share in good reading and good company — all for a good cause.

The sixth annual Read-A-Thon, sponsored by the Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy and held at the Hall Book Exchange on Thompson Bridge Road, began 5 p.m. Friday. It runs through 5 p.m. today.

Pannell, an aspiring writer, said she has been to many previous Read-A-Thons.

“Just to come and sit with a cup of coffee and read ... it’s just heaven,” she said.

The event raises funds for the Alliance, which serves as the advisory board for the Hall County Adult Learning Center. It helps provide free educational programs for adults in the community, particularly those who don’t have a high school diploma or don’t speak English as a native language.

“It is such a wonderful community awareness exercise,” said Dorothy Shinafelt, executive director of the Alliance for Literacy. “We have all these authors, some of them extremely well-known ... and they really bring in the people. Anytime we can get people in front of us, then we can talk about adult literacy (and) the need for family literacy programs in our community, and let people know what is really going on.”

Author Renea Winchester helped to kick off the event, reading excerpts from “In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about life, love and tomatoes.” She told the audience her grandfather’s story led her to a love of reading and writing.

“That is why literacy is very important to me,” she said. “That is why I write, because my grandfather could not read. So just to be here is an honor. Thank you for supporting literacy. We don’t talk about the fact that we still have children who can’t read these days.”

The event is part of the national Make A Difference Day, sponsored by USA Weekend Magazine and Points of Light. Thousands of projects across the country are planned annually for groups and individuals to make a difference in their communities.

USA Weekend appears in Sunday editions of The Times.

For Shinafelt, being a part of Make A Difference Day is incredibly important.

“It just rallies millions of people across this country in one day,” Shinafelt said. “The effectiveness of what you can do for your community is just unbelievable.”

Ten events across the country will win $10,000 each for participating in today’s Make a Difference Day. Shinafelt said the Alliance usually raises around $3,000 each year as readers take pledges for every hour they read.

The Read-A-Thon ends 5 p.m. today, with more authors speaking beginning at 11 a.m., including 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Joseph Scott Morgan scheduled at noon.