Reading is important. It can provide a glimpse into new worlds or help us decipher the one we live in today. From a toddler’s board books to a student’s list of required chapters, reading influences our lives from infancy onward. To celebrate reading—whether print or digital, purchased or borrowed from a local library—Lacey’s annual Lacey Loves to Read celebrates books and authors who’ve made a difference through their work.
“Now celebrating 17 years, Lacey Loves to Read continues to be a unique and successful community literacy partnership between the City of Lacey, Lacey Timberland Library, the Lacey South Sound Chamber, and North Thurston Public Schools,” says Jeannette Sieler of Lacey Parks & Recreation. “The mission of Lacey Loves to Read is to bring the community together around the works of one award-winning author.”
Authors are chosen carefully and this year’s selection is no different. “Each year we look for an author who, in addition to having won awards, has written a variety of books that will spark interest and encourage reading for all ages,” explains Sieler. “We also try to find an author that has books that explore diversity and compassion. This year’s author, Sharon M. Draper, checks all the boxes. Draper is a professional educator as well as an accomplished writer. She has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year, is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Award, plus numerous other awards, too many to list! And she is a New York Times bestselling author, with ‘Out of my Mind’ staying on the list for well over three years.”
Draper is excited for her upcoming visit. “I’m especially looking forward to visiting Lacey,” she says. “I love Washington State—the air is clear, and all the trees and leaves are so very green and lovely. Seriously—it is noticeable, and memorable. And the people there are always so friendly. I have not visited in a while, and I really look forward to returning. Every city, every community is different. I learn so much when I visit other locations. I truly love getting to know people I never would have had to opportunity to meet if not for the magic of books.”
Speaking to groups of all ages is truly a delight. “I love talking about books and reading and writing—to just about anybody who is interested and wants to listen,” she admits. “Each event is different. Speaking in an auditorium to 500 students is exhilarating to me—I have to make sure everyone in the group gets the message and feels involved. Small groups are just as exciting for me, however, because there is more intimacy and more of a chance that I am able to answer everyone’s questions. I always like speaking in libraries because we are surrounded by books! That makes the books all like silent participants in the experience. So basically, there is no venue in which I’m not comfortable to speak and share about reading and writing.”
To accomplish so much, she rises at 4:00 a.m. to write when things are peaceful. “I think clearly when I first get up, and my ideas flow well. I don’t write so well after 7:00 or 8:00 p.m.—my words get mushy, so I turn off the computer and go do something else. Like eat ice cream,” she laughs.
This year’s Lacey Loves to Read takes place throughout the month of February. Draper’s Meet the Author event (complete with book sales and signings) will be on Thursday, February 20, 7:00 p.m. in the Koval Center at North Thurston High School. There will be a Teen Open Mic Night on Thursday, February 6, at Olympic Cards and Comics, presented by the Lacey Timberland Library and kids in grades k-5 can Read Around Lacey for a chance to win prizes thanks to the Lacey South Sound Chamber from February 3 to 16.
Students in local schools will also have the opportunity to participate. “Each school library receives a set of the featured author’s books,” explains Karen Johnson, director of ELA, Social Studies and Library Programs for North Thurston Public Schools. “Classroom teachers also select a few titles from the authors list to add to their classroom collections. The author presents to students at two assemblies during the school day. One assembly is for elementary students and the second assembly is for middle and high school students. Students are bussed from their schools to the Koval Center for their own author presentation. Authors make their assemblies interactive with lots of Q & A from the students.”
And it’s important to remember, says Johnson, that “Lacey Loves to Read runs solely on donated money and/or in-kind services. School district funds do not sponsor the event. We are extremely grateful for the community sponsorships we have secured and will warmly welcome any additional donations. It takes a lot of money and hard work by a dedicated team of volunteers to provide this opportunity for our students and the community but it is definitely worth it!”
We read to escape, learn, explore and grow. Psychology Today reports that people who read often gain useful knowledge, are smarter, develop more empathy, and are more productive; “the benefits of reading are many, and they permeate our lives.” Follow—and share—the event on Facebook then come spend an inter-generational evening with your community. Everyone is welcome.