As you read your Missourian today, you may want to keep a pencil and paper near by. Or if you’re good at counting, you may not need to.

The new Community Literacy Foundation wants to know how many pages you are reading — pages of the newspaper, books, magazines . . .

It’s part of the nonprofit organization’s first project, One More Page, to have this area declared “The Best Read Community in America.”

The intention is to have people of all ages log the number of pages they read through the end of the year with the goal of reaching 1 million pages. People can report weekly, monthly or as often as they want by going online to input the number of pages they’ve read or by keeping a paper log that can be turned in at the Washington Public Library or Neighborhood Reads bookstore in Downtown Washington.

“We need everyone’s help with this project,” said Dawn Kitchell, chair of the new Community Literacy Foundation and education services director for The Missourian. “Readers of all ages — challenge your neighbors, your family, your school, your coworkers, your organization.

“We’re hoping some friendly competition will help drive participation,” she said, “especially when we report who is reading the most.”

The Community Literacy Foundation will begin reporting the progress toward the 1 million pages goal in the April 4-5 issue of The Missourian.

CLF Organized Last Fall

Organized last fall, the Community Literacy Foundation (CLF) is a nonprofit organization created to promote reading in the community.

“The Community Literacy Foundation provides opportunities to promote and encourage literacy through a variety of resources as it endeavors to instill and increase a love of reading for all ages through programs offered in our local community,” according to the group’s mission statement.

The current programs include Book Buzz, the youth literacy project that provides children’s books each month to local school and public libraries based on recommendations in The Missourian and invites area students to write book reviews of those books that appear in the newspaper, and Missourian In Education, which provides classroom newspapers and special content to teachers to use as part of their curriculum.

Both programs, which began under the leadership of The Missourian, are now operating in partnership with the Community Literacy Foundation.

Kitchell, who created the Book Buzz program with Missourian Book Editor Chris Stuckenschneider more than 17 years ago, said it had long been their plan to create a nonprofit to operate the Book Buzz program, which from its beginning has been a nonprofit endeavor.

She and Stuckenschneider have worked with community service groups like Rotary, Optimist, Kiwanis and Lions, as well as businesses and individuals, to provide the funding to donate the monthly Book Buzz Picks to area school libraries. The Missourian has donated staffing to create, promote, package and deliver the books to schools.

But back in 2002, the process required to establish a nonprofit was both intimidating and costly, said Kitchell.

“We revisited the ideas several times, but the paperwork was extensive and it took guidance from an attorney, and we never had the funds to do that,” she said.

Then in April 2017, the Washington Optimist Club honored Kitchell and Stuckenschneider with the group’s annual Friend of Youth Award, which includes a $500 donation to the nonprofit of their choice.

Kitchell asked if they could save that prize as seed money for the nonprofit she wanted to start to operate Book Buzz, and the Optimists agreed.

In the months following that award, Kitchell was busy launching a new bookstore, Neighborhood Reads, in Downtown Washington. Last year when she learned that the process for establishing a nonprofit had been simplified, she knew the timing was right.

Kitchell turned to Leigh Kolb, an instructor at East Central College who was spearheading the effort to create the Stories Matter nonprofit promoting diversity in print.

“Stories Matter was a few steps ahead of us in the process, so with Leigh’s help, we worked through the steps, filed the paperwork, and we were approved,” said Kitchell. “Then we started the work of getting a board together.”

Beyond Book Buzz

Kitchell turned to people she knew were already passionate about the Book Buzz program and reading to serve on the CLF board.

Current board members are:

Kitchell, chair; Jeanne Miller Wood, vice chair; Julie Frankenberg, secretary/treasurer; and Chris Stuckenschneider, Karen Dickhut and Lesley Liesman.

With the establishment of the Community Literacy Foundation, donations to the Book Buzz youth literacy program are now charitable — and Kitchell said that should appeal to individual donors since their gifts will now be tax-deductible.

Bob Dobsch has been a longtime supporter of local literacy efforts as president of the Bank of Franklin County and he and his wife Mary were the first individual donors to the CLF. The board plans to reach out to others across the community in the coming weeks and months to ask more people to support the work it is doing.

“With a framework in place for the organization, now we can begin expanding our vision beyond existing projects — and imagine what this can mean for our community,” said Kitchell. “What other programs can we create or support to grow more readers?”

And no project could be more perfect in fulfilling that goal than the One More Page community reading challenge, said Kitchell.

Lesley Liesman agreed, and she’s excited to get started with her own family. She has long been an avid reader, but this project has reinforced to her the importance of modeling reading to her young children.

“I am constantly telling my kids how reading has the ability to grow minds in ways that will benefit them now and in the future, but fail to practice it myself when they are around,” said Liesman. “I read when they are asleep.

“When the One More Page challenge was announced, I was inspired to prioritize my own reading and incorporate weekend family DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time,” she said. “Kids looks up to us and imitate our habits. This one happens to be a force for good.”

The idea for One More Page was inspired by a customer at Neighborhood Reads, Kathy Haddox, who told Kitchell about a community that had claimed itself to be the “best read.” Haddox thought with all The Missourian, bookstore and local libraries were doing, this community could certainly put up a challenge to that claim.

Kitchell loved the idea, but it took some time to figure out the details on how the project could work, especially how the amount of reading should be measured.

“I kept finding communities that were reporting minutes read or based their reading status on the number of books delivered to a community by Amazon.”

Neither of those ideas appealed to her, and then Kitchell’s daughter, Bailey, suggested they measure by pages read. That was the perfect fit.

Kitchell announced the One More Page challenge last Friday, March 6, at the conclusion of the annual Family Reading Night. Those in attendance were given a One More Page reading log to explain the details and get them started.

“From the beginning, the goal was to launch this project at the 20th celebration of Family Reading Night,” Kitchell said. “I’m hoping in 2021 at Family Reading Night we will be celebrating our success.”

The CLF has applied to have Guinness World Records document the challenge so the community can officially call itself the “Best Read Community in America.”

Want to Get Schools, Groups Involved

People of all ages will participate in One More Page as individual readers, but they also can band together with others to track their reading as a group — as a class, a school, a business, a club . . .

Kitchell noted that one school, Campbellton Elementary, said it is considering having students compete against adults to see who can read more.

“That’s exactly what we are hoping will happen,” she remarked. “There is no individual prize at the end of this — it’s a community challenge, and if we can build excitement among schools and clubs — even businesses — we’ll exceed our goal.”

Another educator has asked if it’s acceptable to count the pages that a class reads together each week. Yes, said Kitchell.

Others have asked what counts as pages. Reading on an e-reader or tablet? Reading on a smartphone?

Reading for this challenge is self-reported, so people can decide what reading they want to count, but Kitchell said she hopes many who participate in One More Page will read traditional media.

As a youth literacy advocate, Kitchell said there is an important reason for this — role model reading.

“Reading to and in front of children is so important,” she said. “When a child sees a parent or grandparent reading a book, or the newspaper, it makes a huge impact. It’s not overstating to say it makes a lifelong impact. But when that parent is reading on an electronic device, especially a phone, children don’t associate that with reading.”

Another thing the CLF hopes to accomplish with One More Page is to show that, despite what people may think, a large number of people are, in fact, reading on a regular basis.

“We want to quash that belief that people aren’t reading anymore, because we know it’s just not true,” said Kitchell.

To Have Your Pages Counted . . .

To input the number of pages you have read, you have several options:

1. Go to www.emissourian.com and under the Features tab, select the Missourian In Education page. Click on the One More Page image and you will be given a form to input your first name and the number of pages you have read for that week, month or however long it has been since you last reported your pages.

There is a spot to input what you read. That input is optional, but reading trends will be shared in the newspaper.

2.  Follow this link to the PAGES LOG, or visit emissourian.com, NeighborhoodReads.com or CommunityLiteracyFoundation.org to input your pages count.

3. You can complete a paper log and turn it in to Washington Public Library at 410 Lafayette St. or to Neighborhood Reads bookstore at 401 Lafayette St., both in Downtown Washington.

Printed copies of the log are available at the Washington library and Neighborhood Reads. It’s also available to download online from the project partners.

Follow the success of the project in The Missourian. The newspaper is partnering with the CLF on the One More Page project and will share frequent updates, including the number of pages read, most popular media being read and who in town is reading the most.

A status box will be published in the newspaper and online to show how many pages have been read, the most popular reads and what group is reading the most. The first update will be published in the April 4-5 issue of The Missourian.