Austin students promote literacy with reading challenge

Library books on the shelf at Gullett Elementary School during the 2018 BookSpring Read-A-Thon. (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
Library books on the shelf at Gullett Elementary School during the 2018 BookSpring Read-A-Thon. (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — From graphic novels to the latest installments of their favorite series, student across Austin grabbed books off library shelves to get ready for a lot of reading.

“I like the paper ones, where you have the paper cover,” Gullet Elementary School student Charlie Maloy said while sifting through a stack of Harry Potter books. He’s read the first three books in the series so far, and is working on tackling the fourth.

He challenged himself to read 500 pages in two weeks, as part of the annual BookSpring Read-a-Thon. During the fundraiser, students collect donations from sponsors based on the number of books, pages or minutes they read over a two-week span. The money helps the organization buy books for local kids who can’t afford their own.

“It’s a nice double-edge, wonderful thing,” Gullett Elementary School Librarian Kay Gooch said. “We’re helping children who don’t have books at home, but it also helps my kids really get the oomph to get that reading in.”

Gooch has helped with the event since it started 13 years ago. Participation is optional for students, but Gooch said 75 percent of the students at her school still choose to take part in the fundraiser. That means more than 400 students are logging how much they read to help bring in the cash.

“They call grandparents, they call aunts, uncles,” Gooch said. “Some parents have businesses where they have clients. I have one child who always hit up his mother’s personal training clients.”

That tenacity has helped students at Gullett Elementary raise more money than any of the other 36 participating schools for 11 of the past 12 years. Last year alone, the campus brought in more than $30,000. At $3 per BookSpring book, that means students there helped buy 10,000 “forever books” for kids in need to keep.

“The kids get behind it, they understand why we do it,” Gooch said. “The kids really get into being able to raise money to help children in their own town.”

One of those is Darby Roldan. He’s beat his classmates at Gullett Elementary as the top fundraiser for the last three years and hopes to make this one his fourth. He just bought a new stack of books he wants to finish by the time the Read-A-Thon wraps up on Feb. 4.

The schools, classes and individual students that earn the most money win prizes like Amy’s Ice Cream, milk and cookies or a pizza party. While the goodies serve as motivators, Roldan said he’s cracking open the books to serve a bigger purpose.

“It just makes me happy to know that every time I get a donation I’m giving a kid that doesn’t have a book a book,” Roldan said. “If you were just a kid without a book there would really be much fun times in your life that you get to read a book and so if we donate a lot of books then kids will be happy and have a book for themselves to read.”

Many of his classmates are working toward the same goal.

“I want kids to have books so they can be smart, so they can go to schools and know how to do stuff,” Maloy said.

Click here to register as a BookSpring reader, or pledge a donation toward a student’s goal.

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