Teaching children of all ages to love books is both a joy and a delight. But encouraging young readers does more than provide laughter, suspense, information and an introduction to the world; it sets them on a path toward future success. Thanks to the annual Lacey Loves to Read events, these new readers partner with families, libraries, celebrity authors and local businesses on their life-long journeys.
Writer Neil Gaiman once shared heartbreaking research. “I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons…And they found they could predict [future growth] very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10- and 11-year-olds couldn’t read.”
He offers a straight-forward solution. “The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books and letting them read them.”
Some of the most popular and highly acclaimed children’s books of our time are written by author Kate DiCamillo. Her books like “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “The Tale of Despereaux” and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” have won multiple Newbery Medals and she’s a Library of Congress appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Emerita.
DiCamillo firmly believes that “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” She’s excited to be this year’s keynote speaker on Thursday, March 1, at North Thurston High School’s Koval Center.
“It is a grand thing—I think—to show readers that something as magical as books can be made by messy human beings (i.e. me). And also, on my end, it is just great to form that connection with the reader, to see their faces, to hear their voices,” admits DiCamillo. “I love community reads programs because they bring everybody together around a story. And I really do believe that stories help connect us.”
But Lacey Loves to Read is more than just a one-night event. Read Around Lacey runs from February 10 to February 21. On Tuesday, February 20, enjoy a free movie night with two showings of “Because of Winn-Dixie” at the River Ridge High School auditorium.
Teens can enjoy a free open mic night at Gabi’s Olympic Cards and Comics from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 22. All students are welcome to share original pieces inspired by DiCamillo’s wide body of work.
Her March 1 meet the author event opens with a scene from “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” performed by actors from the Olympia Family Theater. The night runs from 6:45 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.
Families attending the movie or author event for Lacey Loves to Read receive free courtesy rides on February 20 and March 1. Get on an Intercity Transit bus and say the phrase “Lacey Loves to Read” to catch a ride to the event for free. Details on service here.
These events are a partnership between the North Thurston Public Schools, Lacey Timberland Regional Library, City of Lacey and Lacey South Sound Chamber. The Friends of the Lacey Timberland Library are the primary sponsors of the Lacey Loves to Read events. “Without their ongoing support, through book sales and grants, there would probably not be a Lacey Loves to Read,” says Courtney Schrieve, Executive Director of Public Relations for the North Thurston Public Schools.
Schrieve, praises the event on its 15th anniversary. “Reading is the foundation for learning. This event shows how one community pulled together to promote literacy for all. This is a one-of-a-kind event that is free to families. Our main goal is to get children and families and readers of ages excited about reading and the visiting author.”
Jeannette Sieler, Recreation Supervisor from the Lacey Parks and Recreation Department, explains that, “Each year the Lacey City Council proclaims February as Lacey Loves to Read Month. Over the years, the program has expanded to increase community involvement with the Lacey South Sound Chamber heading up Read Around Lacey, a two-week program that has kids sharing their own writing with local business owners and learning how the business uses reading every day. I can’t say enough about the partnership between these four entities and their efforts to put a focus on literacy throughout the city of Lacey.”
An exciting part of Lacey Loves to Read for students and children is the bookmark making contest with winners at each school level. “They are the ambassadors of Lacey Loves to Read,” says Schrieve. “We print about 16,000 of them to distribute in schools and the community to showcase the original student art.” Lacey Timberland Library also holds a teen writing contest with finalists being notified February 16.
With events and activities across town, stay up-to-date by following the Lacey Loves to Read Facebook page or website. The movie showings on February 20 begin at 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. and children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. The open mic night and meet the author events are also free with book sales and author signings after speaking.
Reading is a perfect way to escape, learn and grow. Community-wide, interactive events like Lacey Loves to Read show it’s never too late to start that journey. DiCamillo confesses, “I get asked a lot why my stories are so sad. And I always say, ‘But are they funny, too?’ And the answer to that is: yes. Life is beautiful and sad and funny. Stories should reflect that, I think.”