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One book, One Bellefonte: Annual event a big success once again

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Jackie Wynkoop, left, and Nicole Kohlhepp, right are the co-chairs of the Bellefonte READS committee. They oversee “One Book, One Bellefonte,” which distributes free books to the community.

BELLEFONTE — On Thursday night, members of the Bellefonte community came out in droves for “One Book, One Bellefonte,” which was held at Bellefonte Area High School.

Several hundred people showed up for the event. The night featured books, games and activities for parents and children alike. Everything was free of charge.

Students lined up for a pair of free books. The Bellefonte READS committee’s community-wide selection was “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus,” written by Dusti Bowling. The picture book “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael Lopez was offered to younger readers.

Jackie Wynkoop, literacy coach at the Bellefonte middle and high schools, is co-chair of the Bellefonte Reads committee. As the event began and families spilled into the BAHS lobby, Wynkoop talked about the growth and success of the event.

“This night is amazing because it’s bringing our whole community together around books and to celebrate a love of reading,” Wynkoop said. “We are giving away around 1,300 books tonight.”

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Bellefonte Area High School ninth grade English teacher Kaysey Beury hands out free copies of the main book, “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” during “One Book, One Bellefonte” on Thursday night at the high school.

According to Wynkoop, the mission of Bellefonte READS is to foster a love of reading in the community.

There are approximately 20 members on the Bellefonte READS committee who help raise funds, seek grants and select books. The program is in its sixth year.

“Every year, we’ve continued to grow. The past two years we’ve run out of books. We’re hoping that never happens again. But at the same time, that’s also something to celebrate. We ordered 500 more copies of books this year,” Wynkoop said.

“One Book, One Bellefonte” is the definition of a community event. There is little cost to the district, according to Wynkoop. The community, she said, backs the event in every way, shape and form.

“The first year, the district supported us a little bit. But ever since then, it has just gained so much in popularity and community involvement that we are entirely funded via grants and community donations,” Wynkoop noted.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS There were plenty of family-friendly games and activities at “One Book, One Bellefonte” on Thursday night at Bellefonte Area High School.

There were four big grants to fund this year’s event: The Believe in Reading Foundation ($3,000), State College Chapter of the AAUW ($1,600), Bellefonte Education Foundation ($1,000) and Benner Pike Walmart ($1,000).

“With those funds and with some discounts from the publishers, we were able to buy 1,100 copies of (this year’s) books,” Wynkoop said.

Working hand-in-hand with Wynkoop is Nicole Kohlhepp, the literacy coach at Bellefonte Elementary School. As the mother of two young children, Kohlhepp realizes the importance of picking up a book.

“It’s super important. We try to foster that, even in our classrooms by having really rich libraries,” Kohlhepp said. “One of the things that we want to make sure — even with this event — is that we build literacy at home. There’s so much research to report on actual book holding and ownership of books in terms of building reading achievement that we want to make sure that we keep up this effort.”

Choosing the books for the annual night is never easy, Kohlhepp said.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Parents and children took advantage of “One Book, One Bellefonte” to pick up some free books. Picking up copies of “Just Ask” were Neil Henry and his daughter, Kiyah. Molly Hoy and her daughter, Riley, got copies of “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.”

“It’s really a year-long process when it comes to building these events and it starts right after they end,” Kohlhepp said. “We read a variety of books. We have debates and discussions and then we arrive at the decision. It’s a really fun part of this because we get read so many great books.”

Although “One Book, One Bellefonte” is over, Bellefonte READS continues throughout the school year. Bellefonte READS community literacy night will be held on Thursday, March 5. Bowling, the author of this year’s free book, is expected to attend the event, which begins with a free family dinner starting at 5:30 p.m.

“That’s really exciting,” Wynkoop said, “because we’ve never been able to bring in the author before.”

For more information about Bellefonte Reads, visit www.basd.net.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Copies of “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus” ready to be handed out visiting families.

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