With 500+ kids screaming at the top of their lungs, you’d think the Beatles were in the house—or Taylor Swift. The enthusiasm was real, but the star of the show was books and reading. Or maybe it was the fact that it snowed when Matthew Henson, first man to step foot on the North Pole, took the stage. Possibly it was because we had a virtual liftoff when Neil Armstrong told his moon-walking tale. Regardless, stories and imagination were in full view—all in the service of promoting reading as its own adventure.
On January 30, the Library launched the 2024 Read City Challenge at the Bijou Theatre with the help of some friends. Actors from the Knoxville Children’s Theatre displayed their considerable talents as they portrayed real-life adventurers who have explored everything from the ocean floor to the surface of the moon. Their director, Madelyn Payne, is a student at West High School. Our future is bright when they get to run the world!
Kids from the Salvation Army’s Homework Club, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA after-school programs and Emerald Youth Foundation along with local families were on hand to help kick off this year’s challenge, which comes with a twist. In the past, Read City participants have logged reading time to meet our community goal. This year, the challenge is made up of literacy missions that include writing, drawing, exploring and of course, reading. It’s all part of the Daring Deeds Adventure Game. You can pick up your gameboard at any Knox County Public Library location, or follow along in the Beanstack Tracker app.
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs started the Read City program with the Library when he first came to office. Now in its sixth year, the program is meant to encourage families and community members to read often and well, with the understanding that helping children learn to read is up to the entire community, not just the schools. The first challenge of the year runs from January 30–April 1. Our goal is to complete 35,000 literacy missions!
If the launch is any indication, the program will be a great success. Special thanks go to WBIR’s Robin Wilhoit for her stellar emceeing skills. The staff at the Bijou Theatre were innovative and energetic, even when hauling snow machines to the third balcony. Olympus Car and Coach got the kids to the theatre on time and in style. The Jane L. Pettway Foundation underwrote the whole event. The event itself was the brainchild of Library Director Myretta Black with Jennifer Harrell executing that vision with aplomb! Many thanks go to all the library staff for creating this program.
Now, on to the adventures ahead.
This article originally appeared on Knox TN Today
View additional photos from the performance.