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Event to shine light on reading

April 27, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Children are not reading as much as they used to, a scary trend that local literacy advocates hope to counter, said Kathy Thornhill, president of the Washington County Reading Council.

To emphasize the importance and pleasure of reading, the Washington County Partners in Literacy Committee is organizing the Washington County Reading Day to be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hagerstown Community College, Thornhill said.

Thornhill said she learned at a recent reading conference that studies show that in 1988, third-graders in the United States, on average, knew 23,000 words.

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In 1998, U.S. third-graders, on average, knew 15,000 words, said Thornhill, who is an English teacher at South Hagerstown High School.

The average is dropping because children are not reading enough, Thornhill said.

"Kids are not reading and parents are not talking to kids as much as in the past," she said. "We want parents to turn off the television and turn to books."

The event at HCC, which will include free books and entertainment, is intended to provide an enjoyable day for families so they can experience the joy of reading, Thornhill said.

Local authors will be there, along with drama students acting out stories, she said.

The winners of the Young Authors' Writing Contest, sponsored by the Washington County Reading Council and the Maryland International Reading Association Council, will be on hand to read from their works, Thornhill said.

Some of the activities will be in the college amphitheater and others will be outside on the lawn, she said.

Organizers hope the event will show people that reading should be a joy instead of a challenge, said Kathleen O'Connell, assistant director of Washington County Free Library.

"Reading is fun. It is exciting," she said. "Reading does not have to be intimidating."

While an estimated 17 percent of adults in Washington County are illiterate, Thornhill said, the hope is that events such as this one will help break the cycle before some of today's children grow up unable to read.

The Partners in Literacy Committee is a subcommittee of the Business-Education Partnership Committee sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. The literacy committee's goal is to make the public aware of the importance of literacy, learning and reading and to point people toward literacy resources in Washington County.

The committee is made up of representatives from the business community, local government, social service agencies, community service organizations and schools.

O'Connell is the committee chairwoman.

Thornhill represents the Washington County Reading Council on the committee.

Each county in Maryland has a Reading Council with the mission of promoting literacy, Thornhill said. The local council is composed primarily of teachers and librarians, she said.

For information about the event, call Brenda Bush at The Herald-Mail at 301-733-5131, ext. 2056; or Donna Parks at Washington County Free Library at 301-739-3250, ext. 125.

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