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Community News

Day of Reading marks decade of difference

2/7/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

First Book Greater Akron representatives are expected to take part again in this year’s Family Reading Festival, with free books for attendees, on Feb. 9.
Photos courtesy of Inda Blatch-Geib
GREATER AKRON — Ten years ago, city leaders, members of nonprofit organizations and Akron area residents came together with a goal to make literacy a priority.

Characters like Zoe from “Sesame Street” have been part of the Family Reading Festival in past years.
The result was This City Reads!, a collaborative alliance that works to see that young children in the Akron area are ready to read when they enter school and that the community sees the value of reading.

Through its annual Day of Reading, which is marking its 10th year Feb. 13, This City Reads! is making a difference, according to Inda Blatch-Geib, co-chair of this year’s events with Carolyn Burrier, of the Akron-Summit County Public Library.

“There are a lot of amazing efforts that happen, but for a lot of people, if they don’t have children, they feel as if it’s not their issue or they are not addressing the fact that functional illiteracy is a huge issue nationwide,” Blatch-Geib said. “We needed something that one day every year focuses people’s energy and serves as an awareness piece.”

When the first Day of Reading took place in 2004, more than 59,000 people in Summit County participated by reading for 30 minutes. A year later, the second event registered more than 92,000.

In subsequent years, the number has hovered close to that, and this year organizers are setting a goal of hitting the 100,000 mark for the first time.

“We’ve been close to that, and we think it is achievable,” Blatch-Geib said. “It’s 30 minutes of reading, and it can be anything at any point in the day.”

In its first few years, readers were asked to read at a certain time, but now the effort spans all day on the Day of Reading, Blatch-Geib added.

Those who want to take part are asked to register on the event website at www.thiscityreads.org or call 330-643-9099 or 330-643-9185 to report participation.

Earlier that day, at 7:30 a.m. at the Shaw Jewish Community Center, 750 White Pond Drive in West Akron, a kickoff breakfast will take place. Several community members will be on hand to receive the Literacy Is Life Award, Blatch-Geib said, which honors people from all walks of life who have made personal strides toward literacy improvement or helped others in some way.

“In past years, we’ve had mothers that were part of the [Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority] community that have banded together and worked with children in their housing projects to doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital that have made literacy an essential part of their practice,” Blatch-Geib said.

On Feb. 9, the weekend before the Day of Reading, all are invited to the sixth annual Family Reading Festival at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St. The event, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature activities for children and families, such as performances, crafts and a family story time.

Jim Gill, a musician and author who specializes in family-friendly performances, will appear with members of the Akron Youth Symphony for a special performance at 10 a.m. in the Auditorium. The symphony will also perform at 12:45 p.m., and Gill again will take the stage at 3:15 p.m.

Costumed characters also will entertain, and First Book Greater Akron representatives will be on hand to distribute free books, Blatch-Geib said.

She added the library has been an instrumental part of keeping This City Reads! going. The effort is all-volunteer and always looking for others who would like to be part of its mission, she said. For more information, go to the website or call the numbers listed.

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