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Read Across America Day kicks off Million Minute Challenge in Lehigh Valley

Read Across America
Micaela Hood
Students from Fountain High Elementary School greet Corey the Apple — the Lehigh Valley Reads mascot — on Thursday, March 2. Corey and a handful of volunteers attended the school's Read Across America event.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Cool beans, indeed.

As I turned the pages of the book, giggles erupted in the classroom.

The fourth graders from Amy Emrick's classroom smiled and gleefully followed along as I told the story of a bean and his popular friends — characters in Jory John's children's book, "The Cool Bean."

  • Volunteers read to elementary students for Read Across America Day on Thursday
  • The event was organized in part by Lehigh Valley Reads, a partnership between Lehigh Valley Public Media and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
  • Lehigh Valley Reads also kicked off its Million Minute Challenge, encouraging families, schools and individuals to read more in March

Three colleagues and I were among dozens of volunteers across the Lehigh Valley on Thursday who signed up to read to elementary school students at Fountain Hill Elementary School, Cheston Elementary School in Easton and Hays Elementary School in Allentown for National Read Across America Day.

Reading in the millions

Read Across America Day was started in 1988 by the National Education Association as a way to spread awareness about the importance of reading. It later developed into a year-round program, with special celebrations in March.

Courtesy Marco Calderon
Students from Fountain Hill Elementary gave a round of applause during the school's Read Across America event, which kicked off Lehigh Valley Read's Million Minute Challenge.

Locally, the program is organized by Lehigh Valley Reads, a partnership between the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Lehigh Valey Public Media.

"It's the one opportunity a year to get into the schools and encourage kids to love reading and to encourage volunteers to come spend time with kids," said Jill Pereira, the United Way's vice president of education and impact. "Literacy is really important and it's a day to highlight that."

During Thursday's celebration, Lehigh Valley Reads also kicked off its Million Minute Challenge, which encourages families, schools and individuals to participate collectively in a regional campaign to read more than one million minutes in March.

Read Across America
United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley
Volunteers read to students at Hays Elementary School in Allentown as part of Read Across America and the official kickoff of the Lehigh Valley Reads Million Minute Challenge.

Students eager to participate

Teachers at Fountain Hill Elementary have been celebrating all week.

"A lot of it involves introducing different authors this week and taking the time to motivate students to want to read on their own again," said reading specialist Nicole Nagle. "We also kicked off the week by asking faculty and students to dress up as their favorite storybook characters.'

Monica Bell, of Bethlehem, was among the employees of Truist Bank who also read "The Cool Bean" to the kids.

"It's cute because they are all still inquisitive and have a lot of questions. They are so eager and willing to participate," she said. "It was a lot of fun, I hope we come back next year."

Fountain Hill Elementary and Melvin
Marco Calderon
Melvin from the Phantom Flyers joined Lehigh Valley Read's Corey the Apple at Fountain Hill Elementary on Read Across America Day.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lehigh Valley Reads is affiliated with Lehigh Valley Public Media, which includes PBS39, WLVR 91.3 FM and LehighvalleyNews.com.