Reading Day promotes love of books

  • Children's author Mary Amato interacts with children Saturday at Washington County Reading Day at Valley Mall in Halfway.
By Alicia Notarianni

HALFWAY, Md. — People walked in the mall Saturday morning and browsed crisp, new books.

They chose their favorites, picked them up and walked off without paying.

By midafternoon, $5,000 worth of books had been taken.

But there was no need to call security.

A book giveaway, which included about 80 titles of children’s books, was part of Washington County Reading Day at Valley Mall.

The collaborative effort between Washington County Free Library and Washington County Public Schools also featured entertainment, games and the chance to meet about 30 authors from Washington County and the surrounding area.

Steven Wernick, the school system’s supervisor of elementary reading, social studies and early learning, said the free books ranged from kindergarten through young adult reading levels.

“The idea really is to promote reading, and we like to start as early as possible,” Wernick said. “And there is the component of parent/child or family reading together to support early literacy and the love for reading.”

Pat Wishard, the library’s public relations and program librarian, said community response to the event has been “absolutely wonderful.”

“A group of children always comes out. They really enjoy taking new books home with them and they love meeting authors,” Wishard said.

Magician Michael T. led roughly 50 children on a parade around the mall chanting the event motto, “Dream Big ... Read!” The enthusiastic bunch sang songs about the love of reading and waved to shoppers and mall workers while they marched.

Children’s author Mary Amato of Silver Spring, Md., led children in improvisational exercises for storytelling. Step by step, she instructed four children, in front of an audience, to come up with a character, an obstacle for the character and a way for the character to win out in the end.

Anastasia Redding, 6, of Boonsboro, chose for her character to be a potato chip. Her obstacle was another very hungry girl who wished to eat her. In the end, Anastasia imagined that her chip character would be dropped into a bowl of water, thereby becoming soggy and unappetizing.

Amato said she is amazed by the things kids imagine.

“To me, what they are learning is that you don’t have to sit down and create the perfect story. You just have to get the ball rolling,” she said. “In school, kids have to write a lot of things they don’t enjoy writing. My mission is to remind them that writing can be fun.”

Tammy Keener and Christopher DeVaughn of Greencastle, Pa., took their children, Nyla, 4, and Mason, 2, to the celebration.

“I think this is wonderful. Kids who might not be able to get books are able to come out and get some,” Keener said. “There are people who write books in our own town that they can meet. And they realize there might be an opportunity for them to do that some day, too.”

Amato said the celebration was especially exciting in a society so dominated by computers, the Internet and video games.

“To have an experience like this, where kids have a chance to meet real authors is rare. It’s admirable. It’s a big deal,” she said.

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