April 19, 2018

#timetoread for National Readathon Day

National_Readathon_Day_posterAsk anyone who loves books about the most challenging aspect of being a reader, and the answer you’ll inevitably hear is: There’s never enough time to read. Fortunately for book enthusiasts everywhere, this January Penguin Random House will be teaming up with the National Book Foundation (NBF), GoodReads, and Mashable to encourage readers across the country to take four dedicated hours to read—for a good cause.

Saturday, January 24, has been designated National Readathon Day (NRD). From noon to 4 p.m. in their respective time zones, readers who commit to sitting down with a good book for four straight hours will both celebrate literacy and help raise funds for NBF’s nonprofit program, which brings books to underserved communities.

The founders of NRD are asking bookstores, libraries, and community centers nationwide to host reading get-togethers for participants, and everyone is encouraged to share the experience on social media using the hashtag #timetoread. In addition to providing a pleasant spot for people to sit down with a good book, libraries and bookstores can organize fundraising teams, or readers can raise money on their own. FirstGiving, a fundraising platform that helps nonprofits run successful campaigns, is partnering with NRD to help readers raise money for a good cause while doing what they love; by the campaign’s first day the NRD FirstGiving page had registered teams from such diverse corners of the country as the Kenyon College (OH) Bookstore, the Orange County (NC) Public Library, and a group of fifth-grade girls and their mothers from New York.


After the Penguin-Random House (PRH) merger in the summer of 2013, the publishing house formed a committee to examine how it could contribute to a culture that valued reading, explained Jynne Martin, publicity director for Riverhead Books (a division of PRH). “In a lot of our surveys,” Martin told LJ, “people say that one of the main reasons they don’t read more is they don’t feel like they have time, but then when they do they love it, and reconnect to the experience.”

PRH was interested in encouraging this connection, Martin said, “not in a corporate, promoting-our-books kind of way, but…for the future of books in America.” NRD emerged from that brainstorming session, and the potential partners PRH approached were uniformly enthusiastic about the idea—particularly NBF.

While it is most commonly associated with the annual National Book Awards, NBF is also involved in literacy initiatives across the country. It brings books to middle schoolers in underserved communities, sponsors summer and afterschool reading groups around New York, and supports grassroots community programs. Harold Augenbraum, NBF’s executive director, told LJ that while NRD is partly about raising money, its mission was foremost to create a national community of readers, and for “everybody to have a shared experience around reading”—this January and, hopefully, into the future.

NBF will be promoting the Readathon in conjunction with the National Book Award presentation, and plans to encourage the prizewinning authors to participate. GoodReads, with one of the country’s most engaged platforms of readers, will donate advertising and newsletter space to NRD. Mashable’s popular new social book club, MashableReads, will be supporting NRD on its social media channels, as well as hosting a FirstGiving team and a reading party at Mashable headquarters in New York. PRF will be running a series of ads in book industry publications and plans to pitch it again as a news story in January.

Martin also hopes the #timetoread hashtag becomes an ongoing meme in the #ireadeverywhere or #fridayreads tradition, one that people use regularly to reflect on “why they have made time to read and why that’s been important in their day, or in their lives.”

A big piece of the equation, Martin told LJ, will be libraries promoting NRD to their communities, organizing FirstGiving teams, and hosting readers in January, when four hours spent reading will be “a nice excuse to be indoors, but [also] a community event.” Participants can find downloadable graphic resources, including banner ads for websites and a snazzy poster, on the Readathon Resources page. The first 100 reading venues to enroll will get a free poster. (“If a lot more sign on,” says Martin, “we’ll probably do another run of 100.”)

Augenbraum, a former librarian, is already looking forward to NRD. He may not sure exactly where, yet, but “I sit down and read for four hours any day that I can,” he told LJ, “so of course I’m going to take part.”

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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  1. dennis fleming says:

    I will probably still be reading The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky on time to read day.