The Columns

Curious George Tests Students at Speed Reading

— by on March 10th, 2010

Reading aloud as fast as they can from Curious George and flipping the pages while trying to remain intelligible, students at Washington and Lee University are having fun trying to read the most words in 15 seconds. (See video below.)

It’s Speed Read Week at W&L from 10:10 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., March 8 through 15, in the atrium of Elrod Commons. The three fastest readers will receive gift certificates from area businesses and tickets to upcoming campus events.

The other winners will be elementary school children from low-income families in Lexington and Rockbridge County who will receive books purchased with the proceeds of the fundraiser run by First Book, a student organization.

Participants are asked to contribute a minimum $3 donation which can be made in cash or by swiping their university card.
“Each children’s book we buy costs $2.50, so that’s why we set the amount at $3 or more,” said senior Jessie Wang, as she hung racing flags on the walls to draw attention to the event. “If we were to buy a book like Curious George at a book store it would cost about $10, but we are part of the national organization First Book, and we receive deep discounts through Scholastic publishing,” she explained.

Wang founded W&L’s First Book with fellow student Kelly Gotkin ’10 in the fall of 2007. That first year the fastest speed read was 115 words in 15 seconds, but the next year it was 128 words. “It goes up a little bit each year,” said Wang.

First Book tries to organize three fundraisers each year, including one at Virginia Military Institute. In 2009 they raised approximately $750 at W&L and $300 at VMI. That enabled them to buy over a thousand books for area children.

Speed Read Week is co-sponsored by W&L’s Panhellenic Council and involves 60 sorority members, ten from each sorority, manning the Spead Read table in shifts all week. “I think it’s a really great way to promote literacy in the area, plus it’s fun,” said volunteer Mary Elizabeth Bush ‘13. “I might try my luck later in the week,” she added.

The national organization First Book is based in Washington D.C. and was founded nearly 20 years ago by Kyle Zimmer, a corporate lawyer who also tutored children at an inner-city soup kitchen by night. She discovered that 80 percent of pre-school and after-school programs serving low-income families had no age-appropriate books for the children they served. Since its inception, First Book has delivered more than 65 million books to programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada.

W&L’s First Book will be adding to that number again this year with books for local children.

Watch some of the speed-reading attempts below: