When people often think of reading, they think of books they read for fun, for work or books they read because a teacher forced them. But reading is more than a book with pages. Learning to read opens doors to new worlds.
Or at least Carolyn Burrier thinks so. She wants people to get involved this February with the Fifth Annual Family Reading Festival Feb. 4 and the Ninth Annual Day of Reading Feb. 8.
Burrier, youth services coordinator at Akron-Summit County Public Library, maintains the This City Reads! program. The concept started 12 years ago as a discussion of community engagement for people of all backgrounds, and eventually the concept focused on reading.
According to the website, This City Reads! is a community alliance of more than 100 organizations to champion and leverage the power of reading to promote the future success of families, individuals and businesses in greater Akron/Summit County.
“Family Reading Festival is a lead in for the Annual Day of Reading,” Burrier said. “It’s before the school day, during the school day, what goes on outside of the school day. It’s our effort to bring awareness.”
The commitments to read will kick off Feb. 8 with a breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Then, at Leggett Elementary School, celebrity readers will share stories with children kindergarten through fifth grade. Also, volunteers around the Akron area will take time from their schedules to read to elementary school students. But if you aren’t volunteering, there are other ways to get involved.
“We just want people to carve out 30 minutes to read,” Burrier said. “Read during your lunch break, read when you get home.”
The website offers an online form for the community to pledge their goals throughout the year. Burrier and Inda Blatch-Geib, board member, want people to recognize that reading a cereal box is just as important as reading a book.
“We want to give people the tools to become more involved,” Blatch-Geib said. “Actively knowing that every day you are reading is important. People are doing it, and they don’t even know it.”
The Annual Reading Festival is the lead-in to the Annual Reading Day. It takes place Feb. 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the main library in downtown Akron and is expected to include more than 1,000 people. Burrier said when there has been bad weather, turnout has been more than 600 people.
The festival is free and includes Jim Gill, Chicago-based storyteller, among other guests. First Book-Great Akron will send every child home with a book and there will be additional free activities.
Burrier and Blatch-Geib both said that these events bring awareness to This City Read!’s mission. According to the 2010 report that is accessible on the website, more than 80,000 people reported their reading activity.
“Students’ scores are improving on tests,” Burrier said. “And other agencies in the are creating literacy initiatives.”
Volunteers can get involved by becoming a partner with This City Reads!, getting a library card and using it, or helping others to read. Volunteer opportunities are many, said Blatch-Geib, who added that potential volubteers should focus on their strengths and passions.
For more information on This City Reads!, visit thiscityreads.org.