Well, now, here is a great idea. Let's hope it becomes a tradition.
Susan Notes: Ahem: RentaSusan speaks for this good piece of news. Yippeee. The world should stop for 30 minutes every day and read. Maybe this will catch on...
And the clock strikes "read"
At 11:30, 40,000-plus Akronites take a break in name of literacy
By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer
Four-year-old Taminique Blackwell smiles and applauds after Akron mayor Don Plusquellic read to her and a group of children from the Akron Head Start Program during the kick-off of the This City Reads program at the Akron-Summit County Public Library's main branch on Wednesday.
A trial was interrupted so that jurors in a Summit County courtroom could read.
About 40 parents went to a South Akron elementary school to share stories with their children.
Teens serving time at Oriana House took time out to read.
Thanks to these -- and
numerous other efforts -- Akron is claiming the title of ``Reading Capital of the World.''
With an estimated 41,631 people reading simultaneously Wednesday morning, the city surpassed the unofficial record held by Tifton, Ga. That feisty Southern opponent, however, wasn't ready to concede defeat.
``We want the chads counted,'' said Mike Brumby, the head of the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence, which has led an eight-year campaign to improve literacy.
Still, Akronites were hailing the local effort as a victory.
``In a community where one in four adults can't read, today was really a declaration that we're going to turn that situation around,'' said Sue Lacy, the consultant who brought together a spectrum of leaders and community groups for the reading effort.
In the Akron Public Schools alone, 28,616 students, teachers and staff took part in the half-hour read-in. The total for all of Summit County was 46,424, according to the unofficial count Wednesday evening.
The community reading event is part of an ambitious effort called This City Reads! that aims to improve literacy among all Akron residents -- from young children struggling to pass state proficiency tests to adults able to read only well enough to get by.
``This program is much more than beating Tifton, Ga.,'' said Bill Considine, president of Akron Children's Hospital and co-chair of This City Reads! ``This program is about creating a culture in our town that is exciting and creates enthusiasm about reading at all levels.... This is not a one-day launch.''
Tifton dubbed itself the ``reading capital'' after showing measurable progress in its attempt to improve literacy. The town's reading event found 7,500 people -- half its population -- reading simultaneously. (Akron would have needed 108,500 readers to match that percentage.)
``There's no way that's going to topple us as the `Reading Capital of the World,' '' Brumby said. ``Y'all are a large Northern metropolis and we are just a lazy Southern town. We're looking over our shoulder, but we feel percentage-wise, we still hold the title.''
Before the reading event, Akron government, civic and school leaders expressed hearty support for the effort during a press conference at the Main Library.
They then took turns reading a children's book to youngsters from Hatton Elementary and a Head Start program.
Mayor Don Plusquellic was met with giggles when he recited the title of the book he was about to read to them: Big Fat Hen.
``How come you are laughing?'' asked Plusquellic, who has been good-naturedly ribbed over the years by the media for his weight.``We're talking about a chicken -- not the mayor.''
At Barrett Academy in Akron, 43 parents and grandparents read with students in the school's multipurpose room.
Jennifer Johnson read with enthusiasm a Winnie-the-Pooh book to her three children -- ages 5, 7 and 10 -- even doing the characters' voices. The foursome zipped through 14 books in a half-hour.
``I love books,'' said Johnson, who even read to her children when she was pregnant. ``This is our constant thing -- to read.''
Nearby, Derrin Dooley and her 10-year-old daughter, Asia, both read silently, oblivious to anything around them. ``At first, I didn't like it,'' Asia said of reading. ``I like it better now.''
Bill Clugsten read aloud to his 7-year-old granddaughter, Kayla. ``If you can read, you can do just about anything,'' he said.
Akron Children's Hospital
At Akron Children's Hospital, volunteers read to children in waiting areas, patient rooms, doctors' offices, and the main lobby, where 3-year-old Everett Allen Jr. of Akron tried to decide whether to pay attention to the nearby balloons, the elevators or Pig Pig and the Magic Photo Album.
Everett pointed excitedly to an Elmo balloon, before settling back to enjoy Pig Pig and One Cow Moo.
``What's a cow say?'' volunteer reader Tracey Carroll of WONE radio asked Everett several times.
``Cow,'' Everett answered excitedly every time.
Nearby, Laura Ward of Wadsworth sat on the floor with her 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, who despite an overnight stay for chemotherapy was able to smile about the story she was reading.
``She loves to read,'' Ward said of her daughter. ``When I read about this being here, I knew we had to come down this morning.''
Common pleas court
A prosecutor and defense lawyer were still trying to pick the right jury to hear their criminal case in Summit County Common Pleas Court when Judge Brenda Burnham Unruh gave the order: It was time to read.
Dutifully, 24 prospective jurors picked up books, Reader's Digest, USA Today, the Akron Beacon Journal or the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The judge picked up her soft-cover book, Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper.
Assistant Prosecutor Colleen Sims left the courtroom, presumably to read her case file. Also exiting the courtroom were defense lawyer Tom Ciccolini and his client, Michael Rusu.
For the next 30 minutes, the courtroom was quiet, interrupted only by the sounds of turning pages.
At the end, Unruh smiled and told the jurors to stop reading. It was time for Rusu's day in court.
University of Akron
Many classes went on as usual at the University of Akron, but the 25 students in Hillary Nunn's Classic and Contemporary Literature class were happy to sit quietly and read.
Nunn, an assistant professor of English, told students she had trouble deciding what book to bring.
``I thought, `Is my job as a reading role model to bring something that's fun or work-oriented?' '' she said, adding that she chose the novel Overtime -- A Modern Sequel to the Merchant of Venice by A.R. Gurney.
While some on campus thought the reading exercise was gimmicky, student Scott Golightley, deemed it a good idea. ``Whatever they can do to get people involved in reading is good,'' he said.
Patty LaNasa read an April 2002 Reader's Digest that she found among a stack of shrink-wrapped magazines at home.
``I realized I hadn't had a chance to read for fun lately,'' she said.
Akron Art Museum
At the Akron Art Museum, artwork loomed over fourth-graders from Akron's Heminger Elementary who had gathered to hear art-related stories.
The slouching plaster figure in sculptor George Segal's Girl Sitting Against a Wall seemed to be watching the 16 children at her feet who were listening to Sabine Kretzchmar, the museum's associate educator, read.
Some children sat cross-legged and craned to see the pictures; some sprawled on their stomachs, chins resting in hands.
While the stories unraveled in the gallery, museum staff members and a board member were gathered in the conference room, immersed in books and magazines as they sat around a cluttered table.
Summit County United Way
About 30 people took the time to read at Summit County's United Way office.
The books ranged from biographies and religious passages to mysteries and romance novels. Several readers brought magazines -- Essence, Discover, The New Yorker and Smart Business.
Only one person brought a stack of work papers. ``I thought I'd try to get ahead,'' said Lois Foster. ``These are stories about the people who volunteer for United Way. It was good reading.''
At several area businesses, company officials reported no formal work stoppage to participate in the reading program, although they said employees could participate on their own.
At the Akron Beacon Journal, an announcement on the public announcement system told employees when to start and stop reading.
At FirstEnergy Corp., spokesman Ralph DiNicola said no formal program was held but employees were able to read if they wanted.
FirstMerit Corp. also didn't have an official program but several employees went to various official locations to participate.
Sue Edgar, an executive assistant at the FirstMerit downtown office, said she and two co-workers went to the Orangerie Mall to read.
``Anything to call attention for all ages to be reading is a very, very worthwhile thing,'' said Edgar, who always has a book in her purse.
Twenty teen-age boys serving time at Oriana House's juvenile facility read -- or were read to -- Wednesday.
Teacher Karen MacBride read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to nine students in a classroom while other students read by themselves at the East Buchtel Avenue facility.
The teens, who are between 14 and 17, were serving time for substance abuse problems, truancy or probation violations. None was a violent offender.
The young men enter the program with varied reading skills. Some are taking college preparatory classes in school and are excellent readers, while others barely read, said Robert Higham, program coordinator.
One 17-year-old sat with a book opened before him, but admitted that he couldn't actually read.
But a 14-year-old read the magazine Vibe, and said he had read three books while incarcerated. To accomplish goals in life, he said, people need to learn to read. ``Reading is fundamental,'' he said.
At Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church on Vernon Odom Boulevard, 15 children from the church's Joshua Child Care and Development Center, sat on a colorful rug as one of their teachers, Vicki Herring, read Andy and Jerome. The message of the eight-page book is to treat everyone the same.
Herring quizzed the preschool children after reading each page. ``How is Andy like us?'' she asked.
Hands began to go up and the children answered: ``He has two eyes... He has two ears... He has a mouth... he can smile with his mouth.''
Minister Yolanda Brown, administrative assistant at Jerusalem, said she thought it was imperative for the church to support the reading program.
``It is important to us to encourage our children to read,'' Brown said. ``The earlier they get started, the more knowledgeable and productive they will be. Today is a good start -- we have people reading all over the city. Now, we have to keep it going.''
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com
And the clock strikes "read"
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