COLUMBIA — Mill Creek Elementary School students were encouraged to wear pajamas to school instead of Halloween costumes on Friday. Kids packed their backpacks with stuffed animals, pillows, snacks and blankets for the school's annual Read-A-Thon fundraiser.
"We used to sell wrapping paper and pizza," said Jeanne Schmitt, secretary to the principal. "But we thought, why not connect it to learning? Now the community can participate, and parents get involved."
Students asked people to donate money based on how long they read. Every student promised to read for at least 180 minutes. Spelling tests and other routine activities were finished early in the morning so students and teachers could spend the day immersed in books. The Read-A-Thon has been held at the school for almost 10 years and is the school's major fundraiser. This year, the school had a goal of $8,000. Money will be collected through next week.
Parents like Tania Daily, whose son Todd Daily is in first grade, participated directly in the event as guest readers. In a classroom strewn with tiny tennis shoes, stuffed animals and bags of popcorn, kids wearing fuzzy pajama bottoms listened intently while she read aloud from a storybook she had printed for Todd's birthday in 2005. Todd was a character in the story alongside Superman, Wonderwoman, a whale and a Tyrannosaurus rex.
"The book has been one of his favorites for a long time," Daily said.
In Patricia Crews's fifth-grade class, students set up tents using tables and blankets for quiet independent reading. They were allowed to bring anything they wanted for reading material, including comic books and newspapers. Crews said that the laid-back atmosphere contributes to the students' sense of reading for personal enjoyment.
One of her students, 11-year-old Megan Goyette, laid on the floor with her head against the wall, reading "Chicken Soup for the Girl's Soul."
"I love to read," she said. "I like this book because each story is different, and I like to hear from different girls' points of view."
Jarvis Martin, 11, sat under a table eating beef jerky and reading "The 39 Clues." He said he had been looking forward to the event for a long time.
"I really like to read so this is the perfect day for me," he said.