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More than 600 children, parents, grandparents and community volunteers packed Washington Middle School Friday, March 2, for the 12th annual community reading celebration that is Family Reading Night.

This year’s event began with a musical presentation by Missouri Master Fiddler Vesta Johnson and her apprentice, Terri Brandt. Local guitarist Gary Halfacre accompanied the duo in a series of old-time fiddle songs and Johnson shared some of her life stories of growing up in Missouri and sharing music.

The Family Reading Night presentation was inspired by The Missourian Book Buzz Pick, “Passing the Music Down,” by Sarah Sullivan, a February 2012 Pick.

Following the music, families fanned out across the school to hear readers in eight classrooms share favorite stories and perform skits based on children’s books.

Readers included community helpers, such as a doctor and mailman; educational leaders, including local principals and teachers; community performers from a variety of venues including the upcoming “Seussical the Musical,” at East Central College and cheerleaders reading upside down; hometown heroes, including the fire and police departments; community leaders; future leaders comprised of high school students; and sports leaders from local high school teams.

Washington Parents as Teachers hosted a Toddler Room with reading, music and activities for the smallest participants.

Seven area elementary schools and the Washington chapter of the NEA hosted activity tables with crafts tied to Book Buzz Picks. Children created monkeys from paper bags with inspiration from the book “Me Jane” based on Jane Goodall and written by Patrick McDonnell and spring trees from the Pick “We Planted a Tree,” by Diane Muldrow.

Augusta, Campbellton, Labadie, Clearview, Fifth Street, St. Francis Borgia and St. Ignatius of Loyola schools all helped children with crafts created by Ruth McInnis, children’s librarian at the Washington Public Library and Family Reading Night committee member.

Throughout the event, books were given away to children. All profits from the Scholastic Book Fair are returned to participants in the form of Book Fair Bucks which are distributed in the reading rooms.

At the conclusion of the reading, a drawing was held to award 25 children reading baskets filled with books donated by local groups.

Reading baskets were donated by Washington NEA, Washington School District Board Office, St. John the Baptist School, St. Francis Borgia Grade School, Washington School District Librarians, Friends of the Washington Public Library, The Missourian, Art Can Do, East Central College Theater, Washington Town and Country Fair, Washington School District Food Service Department, Labadie PTC, Heisel Equipment, Washington High School Wrestling Team, Our Lady of Lourdes School, Author Sarah Sullivan, Y Literacy Council and Washington High School Math Department.

Families who read together throughout the week leading up to Family Reading Night and submitted their reading log also had the chance to win home gift cards to purchase books for their family library.

Sponsors for the 2012 Family Reading Night were the Washington School District, The Missourian and the Washington Kiwanis Club. Additional support was provided by Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of New Haven, Washington High School Football Team, the Washington Public Library and Washington NEA.

A photo gallery of all the fun at Family Reading Night can be viewed at emissourian.com. A thank-you ad with a list of all the volunteers who made this year’s Family Reading Night a success can be viewed HERE.