More than 700 children, parents, grandparents and volunteers attended this year’s Family Reading Night, held on Friday, March 7 at Washington Middle School.

The free community event was a celebration of all things reading – volunteer readers, crafts tied to books, a visit by a St. Louis author and the star of her story, and free books.

Local musicians Steve Leslie and Wes Alfermann kicked off the program. St. Louis author Carolyn Mueller shared her inspiration behind “Lily’s Story,” the tale of a search and rescue dog from Joplin who helped in the aftermath of the 2011 tornado. Lily, a 6-year-old Weimaraner and her owner, Tara Prosser, also were at the event to share their experience first-hand.

“Lily’s Story” was a serialized children’s feature published in The Missourian and more than 170 other newspapers across the country beginning in January. Mueller’s children’s book, “Lily: A True Story of Courage & the Joplin Tornado,” was released just in time for Family Reading Night.

During Family Reading Night, which is free and open to the public, children receive bookmarks and must listen to at least two stories being read by volunteers in the classrooms. At the end of the event, the bookmarks are used in a drawing to award baskets of books.

Readers this year included: Teri Alsadi, Nell Redhage, Judy Straatmann, East Central College Student MSTA Chapter, Four Rivers Career Center Health Occupations Students, Franklin County Fury Roller Derby Girls, Girl Scout Troop #1400, Tammy Kuddes;, Lexi Geisert, SFBRHS Swim Team, Paul & Elizabeth Scheperle, Alex Stroup, Chris Stuckenscheneider, Washington Fire Department, WHS Child Development Students, WHS Student Council, Gloria McDonnell, Amanda Nigles, Nell Whittaker, Maudie Nelson, SFBRHS Football Players, SFBRHS Student Council, WHS Baseball Players, WHS Football Players and WHS Wrestling Team.

Basket donors included: Campbellton Elementary, Friends of the Washington Public Library, Heisel Equipment, Immanuel Lutheran School, Jennifer and Aaliyah Wirthwein, Labadie Elementary, Michelle Prewitt, MSTA, Our Lady of Lourdes School, Washington School District Board of Education Staff, Washington School District Library Media Specialists, South Point Elementary, St. Francis Borgia Grade School, Stephen and Melanie Trentmann, Steve and Penny Heisel, The Snider Family, Washington Missourian, Washington NEA, Washington Town and Country Fair Board, WHS Baseball Team, Washington High School Math Department, Washington Middle School Language Arts Department and Washington Middle School PTO.

The Washington High School Football Team donated money, raised in its annual Lift-A-Thon, for prizes families could use to buy books for their homes. Reading logs documenting a week of family reading were used in a drawing of eight families.

In addition to listening to stories throughout the night, children could participate in activities at craft tables hosted by parent teacher organizations at the following schools: Augusta, Campbellton, Labadie, Clearview and Fifth Street, St. Francis Borgia Grade School, Immanuel Lutheran and Our Lady of Lourdes. Washington NEA also hosted a table. All the activities were based on past Missourian Book Buzz Picks.

Almost $800 in Scholastic books was given away at Family Reading Night in the form of Book Fair Bucks. Drawings were held to disperse Bucks through the reading rooms and youth volunteers all receive Bucks. The Bucks were redeemable for books off the Fair held during the event.

The Washington Police Department gave the final performance of the night on the main stage, performing a reader’s theater, a dramatic presentation, of the book “Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

The Missourian, Washington School District and Washington Optimist Club sponsored this year’s Family Reading Night. Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of New Haven, Washington Public Library and Washington NEA provided additional support.

A photo gallery from Family Reading Night can also be found on