Williamstown students throw down reading challenge

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By Bryan Marshall

Williamstown Independent Schools is hoping families and the community join students in the cooperative reading experience “Come Read With Us.”

Now through Dec. 21, the goal of a district-wide initiative is to get as many people as possible in Grant County to read the popular novel “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins as a way to bridge literacy gaps.

“The plan is to challenge anyone to read this at the same time as us,” said Tina Withorn, WMS teacher. “It doesn’t have to be together, just at the same time.”

While she hopes the book instills the love of reading in the students, Withorn said she also anticipates seeing academic benefits.

The district will host special events later this fall to celebrate the reading project, including student-led book discussions and game competitions inspired by the book.

“It has been such an overwhelming experience for them,” Withorn said about the students. “I’ve seen some students who are non-readers with trouble with attention span just crave this book. A lot of parents have come back and asked if they can read it with them. I couldn’t think of a better book to span both genders that they would love as much.”

Withorn’s class sits in a circle every Friday as they read the book, which is part of a trilogy of novels.

“The Hunger Games” follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen in a post-apocalyptic world where North America once existed.

In the book, the Hunger Games are an annual televised event where one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of 12 districts is chosen for a massive televised battle in which only one person can survive.

“’The Hunger Games’ is probably the first book that I was made to read that I liked this much,” said seventh grader Sam McComas. “Even though the main character is a girl, it really has a lot of suspense in it. It takes place

in the future and it makes you wonder what would happen if the U.S. collapses. It also put a different spin on reality TV.”

During a recent open house, parents and community members were asked to sign cards pledging that they would read the book.

The pledge cards will go on a school bulletin board.

Superintendent Sally Skinner said she plans on joining in on the project as well.

The district is hoping to take students to the movie adaptation of the book in March 2012.

“The Hunger Games” is available at the school and Grant County Public Library.

Copies can be purchased for $9 through the Williamstown High School library.

“It was a great book that kept me entertained the entire time,” said WHS junior Hunter Gatewood. “I didn’t want it to end.”