Marathon Reading How-To's
One approach to "community reading" of a book is to sponsor a marathon session. Volunteers read the entire book aloud during one continuous sitting. Marathon reading is a terrific opportunity to build partnerships with a wide variety of community organizations. Marathon reading has been used to highlight a book under study, or to be a local fundraiser. How can you plan one?
Planning the Event
How long will the reading last?
After choosing the book to read, you will need to estimate the amount of reading time it will take. Try reading a couple of chapters aloud to get an idea of how many pages can be read in 15-minute increments. Then set up your schedule. (Be sure to allow for the time it will take for one reader to leave the stage and the next reader to begin.)
Marathon readings take many hours, so plan how to accommodate reading past library open hours. Get permission to keep the building open just for the reading. Or, can you take your reading outdoors? Encourage night-time participants & audience to bring sleeping bags or blankets.
Keep read-aloud times fairly short, so no one loses their voice, or interest. Participants can sign up for more than one time period if they wish. Five to fifteen minute increments would be comfortable, depending on how many readers have signed up and how long you think the total reading will take. You may want to leave a few open reading spots for walk-ins who would like to read aloud.
When should we do it?
Set the date for the event. You might want to tie in with a special week, such as National Library Week in April or Ohio Right to Read Week in May. Or read on the author's birthday or the day the book first came out. Schedule it for a special anniversary year for the author or book. Marathon reading is a great way to spur involvement in a community reading effort like Northcoast Neighbors Share a Book!
How can we publicize?
Begin several months ahead of the planned event. Order or create your publicity posters, bookmarks, & flyers. Try to enlist some community "bigwigs" to start the reading-- this will also improve chances of newspaper publicity for you. Ask the Mayor, Chief of Police, Superintendent of Schools, and local business owners, to help out. Invite local authors to be "keynote" readers. Send publicity releases to local newspapers, radio stations and TV, including the local cable access channel. Ask local schools & organizations to promote the event through posters or inclusion in the their newsletters. Make announcements during school morning broadcasts. Friends of the Library could underwrite paid advertisements in local media.
How do we recruit volunteers?
You will need to provide sign-up sheets for your volunteer readers. Be proactive-- tell everyone who comes in the library about the reading & encourage them to sign up. Mention it to groups who use the library, as well as other groups you have contacts with in the area. Encourage those who attend library programs to participate. Contact local schools to see if some classes or individual students might want to join in. Talk with your Friends of the Library members about joining in.
Adding to the fun...
- Have your event in a very public area, so anyone in the building would feel comfortable in stopping to listen. (You may also attract more readers for the event this way, as well.) Decorate your facility to reflect the theme or era in which the book is set. (For Fahrenheit 451, you could "create" a fire station or futuristic motif.)
- Have copies of the book available on an eye-catching display for audience members to check out--hopefully, they will be interested enough in the segment they hear to want to read the entire book for themselves!
- Have refreshments for participants-- maybe goodies that reflect the era or some aspect of the book. For Fahrenheit 451, for example, try some futuristically named foods.
- Give some kind of thank-you incentive to participants, whether it is a bookmark, button, or certificate.
- Post a chart on the wall to track how much of the book has been read and update it after each new reader finishes. Be sure to post results and thank-you's to readers after the event as well-- that can make it easier to continue marathons from year to year.
- Provide background music from the period in which the book is set.
- You might want to kick off the reading-- or end it-- with a humanities scholar talking about the book, or leading a discussion of it. Contact a local university or Humanities Council for recommendations.
Have the marathon as a fundraiser
Readers can recruit sponsors. A sponsor pays a certain amount for "their" reader, and those dollars are contributed to the cause being sponsored. Friends of the Library or a school PTA could try this. The purpose of the fundraiser should be clearly outlined in the publicity.