Reading to victory at Suffolk libraries

Published 10:19 pm Friday, February 16, 2018

Suffolk Public Library was named as one of just seven special honor libraries to receive $1,500 for their stunning success in the inaugural Winter Reading Challenge.

Billionaire investor and “Shark Tank” personality Mark Cuban and software company Zoobean challenged four Virginia libraries and nearly 100 libraries worldwide to collectively read either 50,000 books or for at least one million minutes in the month of January, according to the Friday press release.

Participating libraries tracked their progress using Beanstack, an online platform that allows patrons to track their reading habits in extensive reports. Library patrons crushed their goal with 84,002 books logged and a staggering seven million minutes of reading time by the end of January, per the press release.


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Their success has earned $35,000 in prize money, with $25,000 going to First Book — a national nonprofit that provides books to underserved communities — and the remaining $10,000 to the top-performing libraries for their respective areas, or to donate to one of their local nonprofits.

Henley was the first-place winner in the reading challenge. She read 236 books with her family. (submitted photo)

“I’m inspired by the work libraries do for their communities,” Cuban stated in the press release. “The prize for everyone is to pay it forward to an awesome organization focused on literacy and access to books.”

Suffolk Public Library ranked as one of the best with 1,085 registered readers, who beat the library’s original goal of 3,000 books by reading a total of 8,588 books.

Furthermore, anonymous Suffolk residents offered to donate $3 per book read over the initial 3,000 books, up to an additional 1,000 books or $3,000. This added donation will go to purchase new books for the library, per the press release.

“It definitely goes to show how responsive our community is to these types of challenges, and how central reading is in their lives,” Angie Sumner, marketing and community relations coordinator for Suffolk Public Library, said in a phone interview. “The community really came together to support a good cause.”

Homeschooled students out-read all other schools with a total of 807 books. The biggest readers were 6-year-olds, who combined to read nearly 500 books, while the biggest-reading adults were 40 years old.

The top five individual readers were 3-and-a-half-year-old Arabella at 119 books, 2-and-a-half-year-old James at 134 books, 1-and-a-half-year-old Hunter at 152 books and 3-year-old Lilly at 158 books.

Henley took first place by reading 236 books with her family and won Busch Gardens annual passes as part of the Suffolk Reads grand prize sponsored by Friends of the Suffolk Public Library. Her current favorite book is “Peek Inside the Garden.”

The top-reading adult was Heather, who read 86 books by herself and with her children, and the top-reading teen was Anastasia and her 10 logged books.

Nansemond Parkway Elementary School was Suffolk’s school winner with 472 books. The school will receive a box of books courtesy of the Friends of the Suffolk Library.

Ms. Johnson’s third-grade class at Creekside Elementary School was the top reading class for the challenge, and she and her students are looking forward to a pizza party.