Read-a-thons are a fun way to get families into the library, to engage influential people and get media coverage. Pictures of the local football hero or fire chief reading in costume to kids are pretty irresistible.
You can hold a read-a-thon during National Library Week, Children’s Book Week, Right-to-Read Week, as a kick-off for summer reading—or just about anytime. It can be as short as one-half hour or as long as a day. Some libraries have had twenty-four hour read-a-thons.
Who to invite:
- TV personalities—news anchors, weather or sports reporter
- Radio personalities—such as a popular radio talk show host
- Sports figures from local teams and/or their coaches
- Local government officials—the mayor, members of city council or state legislators
- Police officers (particularly those involved with DARE programs) or the local sheriff
- School officials—superintendents, principals, teachers, school library media specialists
- Other well-known personalities
Call first to invite them or get the name of a contact. Follow up with a letter explaining when and where the program will be, the audience and why you are having it, e.g., to foster a love of reading, to provide positive role models and show that the role models feel reading is important, and to promote library use.
Confirm the appearance in writing. Make sure the celebrity knows the grade/age level of those attending. You might also suggest that they practice reading, holding the book to their side so that the children can see the pictures.
Select books that you know will be popular and provide the celebrity with copies ahead of time. OR, see if the celebrity has a personal favorite to share. You might want to tie in the selection of their book with their profession. For example, have a popular police officer share Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann.
Encourage the celebrities to share brief information about themselves, their job, what type of books they like to read, their favorite book as a child and why they like to read.
Send news releases and announcements to all media outlets. Alert them to photo opportunities.
Take your own pictures. Send them to the local newspaper. Run them in the library’s newsletter and on your website.
Call to confirm the reader’s appearance 24 hours in advance.
Give each reader a small thank-you gift.
Send thank-you notes and enclose a photo.
—Sue McCleaf Nespeca, Kid Lit Plus Consulting