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Halloween Children’s Read-a-thon celebrates literacy

By Staff | Nov 1, 2019

Four-year-old Bella Gray listens as a library volunteer reads "Franklin's Pumpkin" to her on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — As mermaids and ghostbusters began roaming along King Street for the annual BooFest events on Saturday morning, a number of them decided to begin the weekend off right, by participating in the Shepherdstown Public Library’s Halloween Children’s Read-a-thon.

Held with BooFest for the first time this year, the event encouraged children’s literacy by organizing 10 volunteers throughout the day to come and read stories to children.

“We just wanted it to be an opportunity for people to experience this as families. They can read together or with a volunteer,” said Children’s Librarian Tish Wiggs. “It was sort of serendipitous that we could add this to the BooFest calendar.”

According to Wiggs, one read-a-thon was held two years ago, and she used that as a starting point for her plans for this year’s event. Each child enjoyed snacks at the event, and was able to select a free book from donations from the Shepherdstown Rotary Club and the library.

“We picked out books that we thought kids would be interested in reading,” Wiggs said of the book selection.

Shepherd University elementary education sophomore Alyssa Ward reads to five-year-old George Karos, during the Halloween Children's Read-a-thon in the Children's Department on Saturday morning. Tabitha Johnston

Along with many community members who volunteered to read at the event, Wiggs said she also recruited volunteers from Shepherd University’s branch of the International Honor Society in Education, Kappa Delta Pi. The two elementary education majors who showed up to help with event said the event was good experience for them in their future careers.

“Right now I’m student teaching third grade at Tomahawk Intermediate School,” said senior Kristin Williams. “I like being around kids. If you get them interested in a book, they become more receptive to us, so it’s important to select books of their interest or to give them free choice of picking what we read to them.”

Sophomore Alyssa Ward said the event also helped them, by giving their society some community service points. However, Ward agreed with Williams, saying what she enjoyed most about the event, was reading to the children.

“They’re a little shy at first, but then they get interested in the book,” Ward said. “It’s fun.”

Some of the parents at the read-a-thon expressed their appreciation for the event, including Angelina Gray, who just moved with her family from St. Louis, Mo. to Shepherdstown this summer.

“We just moved here this summer — this is the small town stuff we were hoping she would be exposed to, so this is perfect. She loves reading very much,” Gray said of her four-year-old daughter.

When her husband became the new executive officer at the U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center in Martinsburg, the family was given one day to find a home. A recommendation from another military family led them to house hunt in Shepherdstown.

“We fell in love with this town,” Gray said, mentioning the family would be checking out the other BooFest events after the read-a-thon. “We love the fun of this — going to the library, face painting and on Halloween going trick-or-treating.”