Bookstores, libraries and bibliophiles across the country are being encouraged to host “reading parties” from noon to 4 on that Saturday afternoon when people of all ages can come together to read silently. (And tweet silently, too, using the hashtag #timetoread.)
This quixotic new event is being co-sponsored by Penguin Random House, Mashable and the social reading site GoodReads. (GoodReads is owned by Amazon, whose founder and CEO, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
In addition to promoting reading, National Readathon Day is a fundraising vehicle for the National Book Foundation, which is a 501c3 nonprofit. Before embarking on an afternoon of dedicated reading on Jan. 24, participants — individually or in teams — will ask family members, friends and neighbors to sponsor them with donations as if they were running a marathon. (Register here.)
Some of us may know the foundation only for its prestigious annual awards (coming up Nov. 19), but the NBF also offers a variety of literacy programs for underserved communities such as “Book Up,” which helps middle school students stay connected to literature, and “Innovations in Reading,” which awards prizes to organizations that promote literacy and a love of reading.
Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation, said, “Penguin Random House approached us with this idea this summer, and we were thrilled to participate. We’ve been working to expand our national programs to promote a culture of reading in America, and this is a terrific opportunity to broaden the awareness in communities across the country and to infuse funds into our community-based programs.”
Augenbraum conceded that to some people, four hours of uninterrupted reading may sound like an “arduous” goal, “but when you sit down on a Saturday afternoon with a really good book, four hours will fly by like a minute.”
Fans of Edith Wharton will have an extra reason to celebrate National Readathon Day on her birthday, but the sponsors chose Jan. 24 for less historical reasons. “We wanted to do it during the winter,” Augenbraum said, “which is a time that many people are indoors, at home or in a bookstore or in a library when it’s really cold outside, and there’s less of an inducement to do outdoor things.”
(Clearly, he’s never played snow croquet at The Mount.)
We’ll keep an eye on National Readathon Day programs as they develop over the next two months.