Senior Kaylie Padgett and post-graduate Kelly Clare brainstormed to create a getaway for Knox students during the stressful times of political events. Along with the Knox English department, the pair came up with the idea of a Read-A-Thon, a 24-hour reading marathon.
The pair describe their hopes for the event, as though they expect to emulate a favorite childhood memory of “D.R.O.P time” (Drop. Everything. And. Read), when elementary school teachers encouraged one to engage in a written adventure for an entire school day. The Read-A-Thon allows participants to relive the buzz of a room filled with kids excited for story time.
Books are often paired with spending hours in solitude. Rarely is reading associated with a communal experience. However, as the editor of the literary magazine, Cellar Door, the collective side of literature is vital to Padgett.
After the polarizing effect of the 2016 election, the two set out to mend some of the fractured sentiments the nation was left with. In December, it dawned on them to host an event that would bring people and books together. It is no accident the event is going to conclude on Inauguration Day, “We thought, maybe, we could host an event where people could read and not be alone,” Clare said.
“We really wanted to get this done,” said Padgett. “We knew to go to Professor Monica Berlin. The faculty jumped right on board to make it happen.”
During the Read-A-Thon event, participants will be asked to spend a day devoted to reading. Though participants are free to come and go, The Space (306 E. Simmons St.) will be used as home base for the event. The event will start on Thursday Jan. 19 at 1:30 p.m. and go until Friday Jan. 20. Plenty of snacks and drinks will be provided as people sit together to read. Participants may choose to select works from a pile of books at The Space, or bring something off their own shelf. Recitations of works will be encouraged.
Though not required, participants are asked to make a small donation to charity. Donations by cash, card or Venmo will be accepted. The proceeds from the event will go to the Galesburg Public Library and PEN-America. PEN-America is a New York City based organization that aims to further international literacy.
The Space will be transformed into a book refuge, filled with works such as “An Atlas of the Difficult World,” “The Lorax,” “The Declaration of Independence” and “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Participants will engage in literary discourse with a community of avid readers, shielded temporarily from the outside world. The event aims to harvest individual passion for books and combine that with the fellowship of a collective.
For some, staying encapsulated in a cornucopia of books may be difficult. Yet, for Clare, staying motivated will be the easy part.
“Everyone has jobs, lives, papers to write, responsibilities and the fact that they would choose to lose sleep, read a few pages, means a lot,” Clare said. “The hard part, I think, won’t be reading for 24-hours. The work will be going out into the world afterwards and continuing to be as thoughtful, generous as many of the speakers in those books–active and creative in these fractious and challenging years ahead.”