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Buck a Book campaign

Nick Smith, a volunteer with the Buck a Book campaign, interacts with students during a kickoff event at Hamilton Elementary School Thursday.

It made perfect sense to Nasia Carothers for a bookworm to be a librarian.

“I went off of background knowledge,” the Carlisle girl said Thursday. “Wordy Worm is good at reading. He’s good with kids. Librarians have to be good with books and kids.”

A fourth-grader at Hamilton Elementary School, she is among 59 students across the Carlisle Area School District whose writing will be featured in an upcoming book as part of the annual Buck a Book Literacy Campaign.

Hundreds of students from seven local elementary schools submitted entries last fall to the essay contest portion of the campaign. It precedes the launch of two-week drive where children read books for pledge money or donations that support adult literacy programs at the Employment Skills Center in downtown Carlisle.

Teams of volunteers visited all seven schools Thursday over the lunch periods to rally support among the students for the reading drive that officially starts next Tuesday and runs through Jan. 31.

Carothers is ready to get involved. Last year, she raised four to five dollars reading a handful of books. “Older people should learn how to read,” she said. “I want to see them learn how to read and succeed.”

Each year the essay contest features a number of prompts based around a theme and tailored to the skills of the grade levels. Themes tend to revolve around Wordy Worm, the bespectacled mascot of Buck a Book.

Carothers thought “librarian” when she saw the writing prompt “Wordy Worm gets a job.” Third-grader Jenavieve Thomas went with “teacher” because the whole theme of Buck a Book reminded her of her current instructor.

“I like it,” Thomas said of the campaign. “It is helping adults and kids learn how to read.”

Alanna Justice, the Hamilton school librarian, spent part of Thursday gearing up for an exciting time. Her favorite week of Buck a Book is when volunteers from all walks of life come into the schools to read books to children and get them excited about the campaign.

“They share what they are doing and their love of reading,” said Justice, adding that guest readers illustrate the importance of literacy through everyday applications.

Each elementary school within the district competes for trophies for the most money raised, the greatest student participation and the most creative fundraising campaign.

At Hamilton, Justice is having students design the spine of a book by writing in an illustration why they like to read or why they are looking forward to being a Buck a Book kid.

Justice plans to assemble the paper book spines into a bookshelf on a hallway wall so students could read what their peers wrote. Sometimes a message sticks better with kids when kids are the ones delivering the message, Justice said.

“We’re always looking for any way we can get students to read,” said Monique Pannebaker, the school principal. “Being able to tie community with literacy is fantastic.”

In past years, Buck a Book organizers held a public event to kick-off the campaign. This year teams of volunteers went directly to each elementary school to talk to the students during lunch periods.

“We thought it would be a better way to touch all the kids and get the message to all of them,” said Art Kunst, Buck a Book coordinator. He said one goal of the campaign is to convince students that even though they are young, they can still make a difference in the lives of others.

A lot of students, especially the very young, are not aware there are adults in the community who need help with literacy skills, said Malinda Mikesell, reading supervisor for the Carlisle Area School District. She said some of the guest readers at schools are past and present students of the Employment Skills Center.

Nick Smith and James Smiley were the volunteers presenting the Buck a Book campaign to students at Hamilton Elementary School Thursday. “Doing it this way makes it more personal for each school,” Smith said. He is the chairman of the skills center board of directors.

“As an organization, Buck a Book gets our name out in the community,” said Smith, who is the manager of a Members 1st Federal Credit Union branch in Enola. “It’s about kids being active and helping the adults we are trying to educate at the center.”

The campaign has incentives built in to encourage children to read as many books as possible for individual and schoolwide prizes. M&T Bank, the chief sponsor, and other contributors donate money to offset the overhead costs of running the campaign so all the money raised by the children goes directly to the skills center.

“We like to support the community and get our people involved,” said Smiley, a vice president with the Wilmington Trust, a subsidiary of M&T Bank.

This year, English honors students at Carlisle High School reviewed the entries of the Buck a Book essay contest and selected the winners. The 59 students will have the opportunity to read their entry to friends, family and the public at a wrap-up event scheduled for March 11 at Bosler Memorial Library in Carlisle.

The March event will also feature authors and illustrators of children’s books and performances by the choirs of local elementary schools.