One Tuesday morning, our Parent Support Group suggested we host a readathon at school.
Because the word “readathon” invoked visions of kids competing to read the most pages, the first reaction from teachers and directors was a resounding “No!” We strongly believe that education should help students become internally motivated and we try to avoid using reward systems, punishment, and other external motivation whenever possible.
But the parents let us know that they didn’t envision this as a way to encourage reading. They had been brainstorming different fundraising events to help fund our students’ participation in activities like the International Model UN Conference in New York and robotics competitions that take place around the world. They convinced us when they said, “Our kids are great readers. Instead of bake sales, why not use what they’re good at to raise money?”
That was all we needed to hear. We were sold on the idea and began to put it together.
Ivana Bejaran (one of our amazing 2012 graduates) came in and used her natural leadership skills and enthusiasm to get everyone on board and motivated. She held a meeting with the kids from the Model UN team in which they decided on a date and coordinated the details (letters home to parents, pledge forms for raising mon, meters to measure our reading progress). They estimated that our school could read about 11,000 pages together, so we set that as our goal.
On Friday, February 6th, students and teachers arrived at school with blankets and pillows, ready to get cozy reading. During lunch break, “reading snacks” were sold, and after lunch our first ever Readathon began. Instrumental music wafted across the school grounds, setting the tone as students, teachers, and support staff all settled in to read.
It was magical.
We knew that we had a community of readers, but we had no idea that having about 500 people come together to read would exude that kind of energy. There was deep silence and an inexplicable feeling of “oneness” and belonging. There is something miraculous that happens when a large group of people unite for a common purpose. Parents that joined us said they got goose bumps when they walked onto the property.
And the kids? They loved it. Over and over again we heard “Please, can we do it again?” “We should do that every week.” “Next time let’s do it for the whole day!”
We surpassed our goal, reading 18,000 pages and 398 picture books. We pulled together as a group to raise the funds necessary for our student teams to travel and learn together. But most of all, we experienced a time of sharing and bonding, participating in something we all love and feeling the joy and strength of community.