Reading festival returns for 22nd year

Reading festival returns for 22nd year

Image Credit: Scott Daniels

East Central Ohio Educational Service Center will present Get Wild About Reading, a family reading festival, on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at New Towne Mall. Designed to get free books into the hands of young readers, it is an event that has a long history in the area, ECOESC program and communications coordinator Sarah Spies said.

“This is actually our 22nd annual family reading festival,” Spies said. “It started with the idea of just giving free books to kids. Though it started small, it has evolved into a big community event hosted at the mall. We invite organizations and schools to set up tables to do activities with kids. We also give away books, so every kid from birth through eighth grade gets a free book.”

The presence of books in a child’s life can be a major marker for future success, Spies said. It’s all about encouraging literacy. One of the biggest indicators of a high level of childhood literacy is the number of books they own. The books to be given away are age appropriate, with board books for the youngest readers and chapter books for older students.

“We have a ton of community support this year, with funding and assistance from the Jeanne Souers Garcia Foundation, Haman Family Foundation, The Walmart Community Foundation, ProVia, Dover-Phila Federal Credit Union and the VFW Club Post #1445 in New Philadelphia,” Spies said. “The theme this year is 'Get Wild About Reading.'

“We will have visits from Curious George and other characters. It’s a way for high school students to get involved as volunteers to be characters that day. We would love to have more high school students participating as costumed characters.”

The Lions Club will be on hand to offer vision checks for kids.

The Reader’s Corner will see members of the community and local authors reading to kids for the family reading festival about every half hour, Spies said. Five other authors will be a part of Author’s Alley including Kelli Argento, Patricia Miller, Farah Raines, Michele Richey, and Tabitha and Frank Alleshouse.

The ECOESC building in New Philadelphia is packed with boxes of books in preparation for the event. “Every kid will get at least one book,” Spies said. “We have a wide variety that kids should have fun reading and holding onto.”

East Central Ohio Educational Service Center is there to help schools help students, Spies said. While the main office is in New Philadelphia, the organization also maintains offices in Cambridge and St. Clairsville.

“We offer professional development, driver education, student services and technology centers. We offer preschools throughout Tuscarawas, Guernsey and Belmont counties,” Spies said. “The reading festival is one of numerous activities we do throughout the year.”

For 2020 the ECOESC held a drive-thru version of the family reading festival, which saw hundreds of cars going through the ECOESC parking lot.

“We had to back up to the original purpose of just giving away books. Last year we had a smaller version, with everyone being very careful with masks and hand sanitizer. We are glad to be offering the full in-person event at New Towne Mall again this year,” Spies said. “We always have a great time at family reading festival. It’s a great day for families and kids. They always love to get a book, and there are a lot of fun things to do.”

The entire family reading festival is free and open to the public at New Towne Mall, 400 Mill Ave. SE, New Philadelphia. To volunteer or for more information, email Spies at