If someday, Ellen DeGeneres or the Philadelphia Phillies show up at Cinnaminson Middle School, you’ll probably have Cynthia Astrom to thank.
Each year for the past decade-plus, Astrom, a reading specialist at the middle school, has invited dozens of celebrities and dignitaries—local, regional and national—to the school’s annual read-a-thon. She’s written the aforementioned stars, as well as Kelly Ripa and George W. Bush, among many others.
So far, no luck.
“No one has ever sent anybody,” she said, noting that a number of local figures (committee members, etc.) do come. “When Bush was president, I got a call from his office … They wanted advance notice so they could make room in his schedule (for the following year). But the next year they had a conflict.
“So that was as close as we got to having somebody world-famous.”
The read-a-thon continues on regardless. The school first held the event in 2000, when it was promoted by Scholastic Publishing. The idea, Astrom explained, was to get schools across the country to drop everything and read for 2,000 seconds (approximately 33 minutes) as a way to promote literacy.
Scholastic only did it the one year, but Cinnaminson Middle School has carried on the tradition (thanks in large part to Astrom) every year since. For this year’s read-a-thon, “Read for 2014,” students and staff will read for 2,014 seconds.
“Absolutely everybody does it. The whole building stops to read,” Astrom explained.
“You read silently, your own book that you bring … It’s just neat to have the entire building be so quiet and everybody’s reading. It’s fun.”
Astrom admitted it’s hard to tell how much of an impact the read-a-thon has on students’ outside-of-school reading habits, and lamented the overall decline in America’s love affair with literature. It’s not just kids who are reading less and less either—it’s adults too.
“Our lives have become so busy and so chaotic,” she said.
Astrom said recreational reading is so important for a number of reasons: “There’s so much entertainment, and so many stories to be told. You learn so much about your own character from other characters … You kind of forget your problems and read about other people’s problems. You learn how to solve problems.”Read for 2014 starts at around 1:55 p.m. Friday. The middle school will also be holding a book fair in the media center all next week.