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Edmonds Marathon Created As Inspiration for New Generation of Readers

Meadowdale High School librarian Rita Ireland envisioned a 55-hour literary event to renew a passion for reading.

Editor's note: On Monday, we told you about coming to Edmonds Bookshop. Here is how it came about:

Rita Ireland, Meadowdale High School’s lively librarian, said she organized this week's reading marathon in Edmonds thanks to Dr. Seuss. 

The result is the Rock 'n' Read Marathon, a three-day reading extravaganza at  beginning Friday at 11 a.m. and continuing through Sunday at 5 p.m.

Ireland says the idea is novel (pun intended), but simple: Participants will be reading in the window of the independent bookstore, seated in one or two rocking chairs. They will be on display for two days and seven hours straight, each taking a 30-minute shift. 

Marathon participants consist of rival schools Meadowdale High and Edmonds-Woodway High, but this time they'll be collaborating instead of competing. Also reading in the window will be high school teachers, former teachers, MHS alumni, MHS principals, district personnel, a school board member, a local shop owner and Edmonds School District Superintendent Nick Brossoit.

“I just want to find ways to renew a passion for reading," said Ireland. "Hopefully, this will inspire others.”

Ireland isn’t your stereotypical librarian. For one thing, she can be loud, all the better to grab attention. Under her tutelage, the MHS library is a hub of activity, instruction and literary inspiration. You can often see Ireland standing animatedly in front of library shelves, pulling out books to recommend to students. She seems to know all the books and all the students.

"She's spontaneous and gives really good suggestions on what to read, such as "Looking for Alaska" by John Green,” said Meadowdale freshman (and Rock 'n' Reader) Chloe Wright.

Ireland wants her message to reach beyond Meadowdale's bookshelves. "All parents, teachers, librarians and the district, they all should be encouragers and reading role models to remind kids to have a balanced life.”

So how did Rock 'n' Read come about?

“This idea popped in my head at a librarians' meeting where we were brainstorming ways to encourage more readers for an upcoming Dr. Seuss birthday event,” Ireland said.

To honor Dr. Seuss’ birthday on Wednesday and every March 2, many elementary schools host activities as part of the National Education Association’s Read Across America program. It's an annual reading motivation exercise tied into the life of Dr. Seuss, the pen name of the late Theodor Geisel.

Read Across America day can play a major part in elementary schools. In high schools, however, the day often goes unnoticed. So Ireland had an idea to involve high school kids.

"Mary Kay Sneeringer, owner of the Edmonds Bookshop, once had some friends reading in her store window, taking turns in a rocking chair," she said. "Then it hit me. Rock 'n' Read, like the popular Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon. I ran it by some students, asking if they would read in the middle of the night, and they did not look at me like I was crazy.” 

Several local businesses are on board to support the community-wide literacy effort. Treats and coffee throughout the three-day marathon, to keep everyone energized, will be donated by , , and Tully's Coffee. In addition, the following local businesses donated to a large street banner advertising the event: Beresford Booth, Edmonds Bookshop, , , Twist Vinyasa Yoga, , Demetris WoodStone Taverna, Running in Motion and the Meadowdale High Parent Resource Group. 

New and gently used books will be collected during the event. “We're asking teens and the community to donate gently read books or buy new books for the nearly 400 families who come to the Edmonds Food Bank every Tuesday," Ireland said. "Imagine. Parents picks up food and some early-reader or preschool books from the table to read to their young ones. Any way we can provide resources to help young kids read is a step closer to their school success.”

Ireland herself will be taking part in the marathon. “I will be either reading the last half of "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen or the new nonfiction "Unbroken" by Lauren Hillenbrand, depending on my mood.”

Alison Ersfeld will be participating in the Rock 'n' Read marathon along with her teen and pre-teen kids.

Rita Ireland March 01, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Allison Ersfeld....you awesome writer! Thank you so much for capturing the spirit of this event. What will you be reading? I would also like to add that Edmonds Woodway has provided a huge boost to the initial work of this event. Anne Stewart, IB teacher and CAS coordinator, and Becky Endlich, EWHS librarian, have provided so much support as well. Almost all the reading slots are now filled, minus a 4 AM on Saturday night!

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