BELLEFONTE — In the Bellefonte Area School District, a tradition has been born.
This tradition, however, is unlike any other — because it involves reading.
“Bellefonte Reads” is entering its second year. In 2014, Bellefonte Area School District assistant superintendent Michelle Saylor and literacy coaches Jackie Wynkoop and Jennifer Zahuranec had an epiphany — the district needed to more actively promote the love and appreciation of literature in the community. From that, “Bellefonte Reads” was born.
According to Wynkoop, the thought process behind “Bellefonte Reads” was a simple one.
“We’re former classroom teachers,” Wynkoop said of she and Zahuranec. “Three to four years out of the classroom, we were really starting to miss that connection with kids and parents on a more direct level. So, we brainstormed this idea to bring the community together around a book.”
Last year, participants read “The Red Pencil,” a poetic tale that followed the story of a young Sudanese girl throughout the Darfur crisis. The first year of “Bellefonte Reads” was a huge success. Approximately 300 parents, children and residents took part in the program.
According to Wynkoop, “Bellefonte Reads” is a community-wide program that aims to foster a love of literacy so that all children and adults will become thoughtful, compassionate and well-rounded global citizens.
“Our main goal is to pick a book that will make the community think about an important topic,” she explained. “We try to encourage many people in the community to read it and discuss it. That’s our main mission.”
This year’s selection is the memoir “I Am Malala,” written by Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala spoke out against the Taliban and fought for the right to an education. Her message of educational empowerment is one that resonates strongly within the committee and across the district, Wynkoop said.
“So far, the response has been really great,” she said
In order to reach a wide audience of readers, this “One Book, One Bellefonte” initiative will offer several different versions of Malala’s story. Books will be distributed, free of charge, to community members who visit the school Thursday, Jan. 21, during the kickoff event.
Interested residents are encouraged to stop by the Bellefonte Area High School library anytime between 6 to 8 p.m. that evening to learn more about Malala and select an age-appropriate copy of book.
“Anyone can stop by during that time … it doesn’t have to be the whole time. It can even be just for a couple of minutes to select one of the free books. They can stay longer if they want to learn more about Malala to help build some background,” Wynkoop said.
The committee has also planned for several book chats to take place during the month of February. These chats will be geared toward various age levels, and will be held in a variety of Bellefonte businesses and buildings. Information about the book chats will be distributed at the kickoff event.
Then, on Wednesday, March 23, Bellefonte residents will be invited to the Community Literacy Night. At this event, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a free dinner, listen to poetry readings and guest speakers and engage with interactive literacy-themed stations.
“We’ll have some (chats) that are just for middle school students, some that are just for high school students and some that are just for adults. We’re going to have some family-friendly ones. We’re going to give people a lot of options,” Wynkoop said.
For more information about “Bellefonte Reads,” visit www.sites.google.com/a/basd.net/bellefonte-reads/home or check out “Bellefonte READS” on Facebook.