VALDOSTA -- Nestled in a corner of the Southside Library Sunday afternoon, Courtney Jones and sisters Amanda and Stephanie Sermons read and discussed poetry by Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou as part of an African-American Read-In. More than 15 parents and youths attended the library event. A school event will be held today.

However, Valdosta Chapter of the Circle of Friends Book Club Founder and President Jennifer Copeland said she and others also sent letters to various community churches asking for their participation. The book club is sponsoring the event. Copeland said several churches were interested in participating but couldn't provide information on how many people or churches participated.

In order to be considered a participant, readers must select works written by African-Americans, conduct the read-in on the assigned day, and report the number of people who attended the various read-ins throughout the area.

The nation-wide event is in its 14th year, but has only been in Valdosta for three. Last year, Copeland said, about 1,500 people participated in the event. She said she hoped to double that number this year.

"It just takes one book," Copeland said. She told the adult group that she used to hate reading until she found the right book to capture her interest. That one book opened many other literary doors for her, and now she's an avid reader. That's what the book club is trying to do: advocate reading and educate students on the accomplishments of African-American citizens.

The Southside Library event was held a little differently this year. Instead of having people stand at a podium and read their selections, the sponsors decided to separate into several groups, determined by age. This, Copeland said, was designed to ensure the younger participants stay interested.

Branch Manager Beverly Sanders said having the event on a Sunday meant that parents more likely accompanied their children to the library and spent time reading with them.

"The young people are our future," Sanders said, adding that if children don't learn to read well, our future will be in trouble.



To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.



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