Storytelling is an age-old tradition and, hopefully, every one of us has memories of bedtime stories from our parents or of sitting on a grandparent’s knee to hear a tale from way before our birth. To encourage reading in the community, especially among parents and young children, local celebrities like Sen. Dennis Egan, who is known for his radio voice, author and clan elder Marie Olsen, musician and Alaska State Museum director Bob Banghart, Rep. Cathy Muñoz, pediatrician George Brown, Early Childhood Educator Lupita Alvarez and Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich will be reading some of their favorite picture books.
What’s more — there will be cake and muffins.
Head downtown 2 p.m. this Saturday to start the afternoon off with a cakewalk, part of the Maritime Festival but associated with the Read-a-thon, with a suggested $5 donation. Participants who don’t win the cake will still get a pumpkin muffin to munch. Following the first cakewalk (there are 10 cakes total, split between two sessions), the celebrity readers will read for 15-minute intervals, starting with Alvarez at 2:30 p.m., Olson at 2:45 p.m., Egan at 3 p.m. and Banghart at 3:15 p.m.
Then, there will be another cakewalk.
After the 3:30 p.m. cakewalk, Muñoz reads at 3:45 p.m., Brown reads at 4 p.m. and Gelbrich reads at 4:15 p.m., ending the reading extravaganza at 4:30 p.m., in time to take those only potentially hungry (after having pumpkin muffins or maybe cake) kids home for dinner.
Some of the books one may expect to hear, as well as see projected on a big screen, are “Green Eggs and Ham” by Doctor Seuss, as read by Brown; “Baby Beluga” and “Deep Water Man” by Burt Dow.
Recently, the Alaska State Library system featured a campaign showing Alaska legislators holding their favorite books. Egan chose “A Smack of Jellyfish” by local author and artist Sarah Asper-Smith, a look at terms of venery (words for groups of animals) with crisp illustrations in popping colors.
The Read-a-thon is sponsored by the Partnership for Families and Children and is a fundraiser for the Imagination Library, which provides free books each and every month to children in Southeast Alaska, from birth to age 5.
Community members can support the Read-a-thon and Imagination Library by making pledges. Best Beginnings, a public-private partnership that mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaskan children begin school ready to succeed, will match pledges up to $3,000. For each $30 pledged, one local child will receive a book a month, every month for five years, helping to ensure Kindergarten readiness.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which receives financial support from the Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Department of Education & Early Childhood Development, the Children’s Hospital at Providence and partners Alaska Housing Finance Corp., was founded by Dolly Parton to encourage children to read.
The University of Alaska Anchorage completed an evaluation study in 2010 demonstrating that children who participate in the program for at least one year are more enthusiastic about reading, are read to more often, are perceived by parents as better prepared for Kindergarten and live in homes with more children’s books.
To make a donation, visit bit.ly/JLxqea where credit cards are accepted.
The goal is to sponsor 100 more children in Juneau and surrounding communities.
For more information on the Imagination Library, visit bestbeginningsalaska.org/expanding-imagination.
• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.