By LILLY GUENTHER, News Editor of the Red and White student newspaper
On Friday, January 29, the Bellefonte READS committee held its seventh annual “One Book, One Bellefonte” event. Each year, the Bellefonte READS committee chooses a theme that the free books distributed at the event exemplify, and this year, the Bellefonte community had the opportunity to be involved in the choosing of a theme.
From December 7-11, community members voted on three theme options: “Protect Your Planet,” “Raise Your Voice,” and the eventual winner, announced on December 14, “Find Your Brave.”
Bellefonte READS co-chair Mrs. Nicole Kohlhepp said the theme “was meaningful to the community because of the challenges that we have all been facing during this pandemic. The theme of bravery and real life superheroes helps us to realize that we can overcome the challenges we face and that each one of us has the ability to be a real life superhero.”
Book options for multiple age levels were then chosen by the committee. Those who reserved a book had four options: Brave, by Stacy McAnultey, was chosen for the pre-kindergarten to second grade age range. Brave Like That, by Lindesy Stoddard, was chosen for the grade three to seven age range. Superheroes are Everywhere, by Kamala Harris, was chosen for the kindergarten to fourth grade age range. And All We Have Left, by Wendy Mills, was chosen for eighth grade readers and older.
Due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, the “One Book, One Bellefonte” event, like many others, had to undergo some changes to the way it has been held in previous years. Because of this, the board “had to get creative” said Mrs. Kohlhepp. There was no indoor event this year. Prior to the event, community members who wished to receive a book reserved one through an online form. On Friday, between 4-7 p.m., they then had the opportunity to pick them up in their car at Bellefonte Area Middle School. The committee also offered multiple book raffles as an extra activity.
Although there were changes to the event, the Bellefonte READS committee continued to have big goals. At the 2020 event, 1,300 books were distributed at “One Book, One Bellefonte.” This year, 1,300 books were distributed to a record number of 397 families. Extra copies were placed at the Centre County Library to be picked up by any community member.
“One Book, One Bellefonte,” is the yearly kickoff for a series of events held by the Bellefonte READS committee. In February, Bellefonte READS will host virtual visits of three authors and one illustrator.
This will be the organization’s seventh year. Since their first year, the group has distributed over 7,000 free books to the community. Bellefonte READS was founded in 2014 by Mrs. Jackie Wynkoop, a secondary literacy coach for Bellefonte Area School District, with the goal of creating community excitement and engagement regarding reading.
“I’ve always been passionate about reading and wanted to spread that love to others… It truly warms my heart to know that because of our work, families are able to add amazing books to their collections,” she said.
The committee is led by co-chairs Mrs. Wynkoop, and Mrs. Nicole Kohlhepp, both literacy coaches for Bellefonte Area School District. Also involved are a number of teachers and staff for BASD, as well as other community members.
“I truly believe in the power of a literate life. Research shows that book ownership is key to a child’s future success. It’s critical that books are in the home and that caregivers are reading role models for their children. By hosting events such as ‘One Book, One Bellefonte’ and our annual Community Literacy Night, we’re able to provide families with the tools necessary to make reading a priority,” Mrs. Wyknoop said.
Bellefonte READS holds other events such as Community Literacy and Family Book Trivia Nights, has installed eight Little Free Libraries throughout Bellefonte, and works in numerous ways to promote literacy and learning throughout the community. Students and community members are always welcome to support the committee and its goal by joining the committee, volunteering, participating in events, donating, and promoting literacy in their daily lives.