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Tome Society brings books, comics, music, technology together
Group started by East Hall County sisters
Tome Club members from Mt. Vernon Exploratory meet Thursday morning at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus during Tomecon 2016. The event is open to all elementary, middle and high school book club members and featured reading bowl competitions, talks from authors and a full day of workshops and events.

A “rough draft” of a novel is just that — rough draft, “practice” — Jaleigh Johnson, Illinois author of fantasy novels, told about 300 students Thursday.

The TomeCon 2016 Literacy Conference joined students in discussion groups — formal and informal.

“We literally made friends just now,” said Orlando Miranda, an East Hall High School freshman. “We talked about books.”

The Tome Society is three years old — as is the literacy conference — and is the brainchild of sisters Jennifer Parker and Rebecca Hamby, both media specialists for Hall County Schools.

This year’s conference continued the practice of doubling in size. The first year, Hamby said, about 100 students and adults attended. In 2015, it was nearly 200 students. About 400 attended the daylong event at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus — “we outgrew” East Hall High, Hamby said.

The sisters created the society to create “an active student community promoting literacy that went beyond informal book discussions,” according to the group’s website. The society seeks “to promote multiple literacies among fourth to 12th grade students.”

Based on comments in the halls and from teachers accompanying the students, that goal was achieved Thursday.

The event included the Tome Society Reading Bowl competition among 11 teams, as well as sessions on writing a book or blog, taking photos with phones, creating comics, writing music online, Star Wars mythology and use of a variety of software.

Reading is “like a TV,” said Jose Vital, junior at East Hall High. He said he enjoys Manga, a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels.

Hamby said she has bought a number of Manga books for the East Hall High library.

Lee Ann Pittman, sponsor for the Gainesville Middle School Tome Society, has been at the school three years and been to all three of the TomeCons.

She said her predecessor as media specialist at the school, Shelby Day, who is now at Tallulah Falls and is a board member for the literary society, encouraged her to start the program.

“Once we got involved, we were completely hooked,” Pittman said. She touted the variety of experience — “not just the reading, but digital and technology tools.”

Michele Turner and Pittman had 28 students at the event.

“Literacy” in music was the focus of making music online — presented by Danica Pruitt. She said the software is a bit like Legos — “you take pieces, snap them together and make something.”

Pruitt pronounced, “Today, we’re going to make a song.”

Literary, Hamby said, is a way “to look at any information, process it and use it.” Anyone can have “multiple literacies,” she said, “not just reading.”

Local schools participating in the event were North Hall, East Hall and Gainesville high and middle schools; Mt. Vernon Exploratory; Martin Elementary; Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy; Flowery Branch High School and Davis Middle School.

She became fascinated with stories, Johnson told the students, through watching her older brother and his friends play “Dungeons & Dragons.”

She still is an avid gamer, she said.

She compared games to “an interactive storytelling game,” Johnson said.

Through her “fantasy world,” she said, she evolved through “Dungeons & Dragons to Middle Earth and Narnia.”