By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Ken-Ton middle school students received a copy of a special edition book Tuesday as part of World Book Night, an international event with a simple mission — to spread the love of reading.
“We really just wanted to give the chance to have book lovers go out and give a book to someone,” Carl Lennetz, the executive director of the organization’s U.S. chapter said.
World Book Night got its start in the United Kingdom in 2011 when a British publisher launched the event in hopes of encouraging more people to read. Last year, the event was moved to April 23, William Shakespeare’s birthday, and World Book Night made its way across the pond to the United States.
As part of the event, an independent panel of librarians and booksellers chooses 30 books every year to be given out on April 23. The authors of the books waive their royalties, and the publishers of the books print the books for free with a special World Book Night cover.
“We try to choose a wide variety of books ... fiction, nonfiction, memoir, sports — everything,” Lennetz said.
Days before the event, 25,000 volunteers who have applied to be a part of the event pick up the books and then give them out at a location of their choice.
“We are looking to target light and non-readers who may not have a lot of books at their fingertips,” Lennetz said. “A third of the books ends up going to social service locations — like hospitals, food pantries and shelters. Another third goes to children at schools, and the last third is what we call ‘around town’ — at diners, baseball games, bars, yoga.”
The Ken-Ton Parent Association was approved as a giver for this year’s event after one of the organization’s members heard about the day.
“We had to rank the titles of the 30 books that we wanted, and we got our number one choice — ‘The Lightning Thief’ by Rick Riordan,” Jill O’Malley, the director of the KTPA said.
O’Malley gave out copies of the book, which features an 11-year-old and is based on Greek mythology, to more than 20 middle school students at Franklin, Hoover and Kenmore middle schools Tuesday.
“Librarians and teachers at the schools came up with a list of students who would read a book if it was given to them, but may not have a lot of books at home,” O’Malley said.
When O’Malley gave a book to one of the students at Kenmore Middle School, he said “my friends are going to be so jealous!”
“That was cool, and what the event is all about,” O’Malley said.
The volunteers’ involvement and the kids’ reactions are exactly what Lennetz was hoping to achieve on Tuesday.
“This is not a top-down, large literacy program,” Lennetz said. “It’s not a big city movement, it’s a community giving effort that takes place in 6,000 towns and cities in 50 states that is driven by local community members.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150