Best Practices

Mayor Paul D. Fraim

Creating a City of Readers

The Norfolk Public Library has a dream: to create a City of Readers! The city believes that encouraging the enjoyment and habit of reading is one of the most positive things that can be done in the education of children. The fact that 60 percent of Norfolk's school children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches is an economic indicator that unfortunately also points to a reduced literacy level.

The library has a strong interest in partnering with the Norfolk Public Schools in addressing this situation, and one avenue is to offer significant rewards and incentives for reading. To this end, the Norfolk Public Library sponsored the "Read for the Gold Read-a-thon" in the spring of 1996. Backed by the NPL Foundation, the Norfolk Tides Baseball Club, and corporate sponsors such as Circuit City, Boise Cascade, and Prince Books, the Read-a-thon's primary purpose is to encourage the enjoyment of reading by Norfolk's children and their families. By targeting the public schools, this event supports the schools' efforts to encourage home reading.

Read-a-thon informational packages were handed to every elementary school child in their classrooms, and were made available to secondary students in their media centers. Packages were also available in all public libraries. Participants obtained pledges of money from friends and families for every 30 minutes of time they read or were read to, and it was emphasized that awards would be based on the amount of reading time, not on the amount of pledge money raised. Every individual completing a reading log received a prize package and will have a book gift plated in their name and placed in a children's collection of the Norfolk Public Libraries. The top winning child will have their name up in lights and will toss out the first pitch in a Tides game in the awards ceremony at Harbor Park. Gold, Silver, and Bronze prizes will be awarded to the winners in the elementary, secondary, and adult categories. Corporate sponsors provided all of the prizes, including a computer system, a Sony hand-held TV, Joe Smith autographed sports items, passes to Tides games and Busch Gardens, and gift certificates to Prince Books and for dinner and movie events.

This event was very much a product of cooperation and partnerships. The library depended upon the willingness of the schools to promote the Read-a-thon, and upon citizen groups like the Friends of the Library, Library Trustees, and the PTA for planning and implementation. All pledge money received will be used for the acquisition of children's books in the Norfolk Public Library.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (804) 664-4679

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