April 15, 2024 | Twigs for the Nest

Cultivating the Reader in Every Student

by Liz Voboril

Why a Read-A-Thon and Literature Day?

Everett McNutt had always been an active kid, using his body from the time he woke up to when he went to bed. Sitting down to read was a huge challenge. Ten minutes of reading out loud every night felt like an eternity. His dad, Mark, wondered if Everett would ever really “be a reader” – maybe he was just a more physical kid.

By second grade, Everett had started reading more on his own, but he’d get frustrated when he ran into a word he didn’t know. Progress came in fits and starts. When it came time for the Read-A-Thon, Everett’s competitive streak kicked in and he set a big goal. His parents braced themselves for a bumpy 10 days.

The bumps came, but Everett kept pushing through. When he didn’t know a word, he began to read along and figure it out in context. One day he read 400 minutes! He hit his reading goal, and, what’s more, he got hooked on reading.

Everett’s transition “shocked” the McNutt family: “This kid who could hardly stop moving before going to sleep was now reading for so long, we had to tell him to turn off the lights. If he was really into a book, he’d wake up early and read in bed before getting up!”

“One thing I’ve come to appreciate about the classical approach,” shares Mark McNutt, “is that it doesn’t sort kids into groups like ‘reader’ and ‘athlete’ and ‘math person’ but aims to cultivate the reader in every student. It pushes against some of my assumptions – in a good way.”

Stories like Everett’s pop up every spring after Read-A-Thon, and they are one of the reasons the event has become an annual part of the school year. The Read-A-Thon was started by a parent, Jody Martin, who at that time was not on staff but the President of a fledgling Parent Association. Jody knew that the school would need a way to raise extra funds and wanted something that fit in with the school’s emphasis on formation. When she saw the Read-A-Thon idea, she knew it was a good fit.

“When Jody proposed a Read-A-Thon,” Katharine remembers, “it was an easy and obvious ‘yes!’ We knew it would tie perfectly into Literature Day and round out our goals for that celebration. After all, everybody loves a good game!”

“Literature Day was the one and only ‘special’ day we had in our first year,” reflects Katharine. “I remember a speaker at my college who’d said, ‘Imagination is a way of knowing.’ That resonated so deeply with me. Children are going to imagine themselves into the books they read, whether it’s a ‘formal’ day in the school year or not, but I knew from the get-go that I wanted to create a ‘special’ day’ to lean into the imagination and celebrate great books.”

Want to encourage your Read-A-Thon readers? Play them the Read-A-Thon theme song, make a reading nook in your home (temporary or permanent!), or pick up a book and join in yourself! After all, as Napoleon Bonaparte once said,“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.” To the books, my friends!