2009-06-04 / Local & State

Bookworms Bid For Books, Celeb Items

McConnellsburg Elementary hosts reading auction for students
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

McConnellsburg Elementary students try to catch the attention of auctioneer Craig Knepper last Tuesday during the school's end-of-the-year reading auction that saw an array of celebrity and autographed items put up for bid. McConnellsburg Elementary students try to catch the attention of auctioneer Craig Knepper last Tuesday during the school's end-of-the-year reading auction that saw an array of celebrity and autographed items put up for bid. Wiggling and squirming with enthusiasm, around 230 students from McConnellsburg Elementary packed their gymnasium last Tuesday in hopes of taking home at least one of hundreds of celebrity items up for bid at the end-of-the-year reading auction.

Revived by elementary librarian Pam Ott after a multiyear hiatus, the May 26 auction marked the culmination of one year of reading by bookworms enrolled in grades kindergarten through fifth. The reading enthusiasts were required to accumulate a minimum of 25 points by reading library books and passing computerized tests through the Accelerated Reader program. Points awarded per book vary depending on level of difficulty and size.

Putting things into perspective, Ott noted, a kindergarten student would likely have to read 60 books to reach the 25- point plateau. Even though only one kindergartner was able to read enough books to accumulate the required number of points during the 2008-09 school year, fourth-grader Jay Harnish topped the school's list of avid readers with 615 points.

A cumulative tally of points read by students participating in the special end-of-the-year event was 19,915, added Ott, who has logged 18 years in the school's library.

In order to properly reward her students for their commitment to both learning and reading, Ott stated she kicked off her search last June for celebrities who would be generous enough to donate personalized and autographed items. With help from library assistant Susanne Moore, parent helpers and the district's PTSO, which supplied the majority of postage, Ott was able to send out more than 1,000 letters to movie stars, authors, sports icons and local business owners, many of which were located through "The Celebrity Black Book."

The response to Ott's requests was a bit overwhelming, in comparison to the last reading auction held 13 years ago, and netted a variety of auction prizes ranging from a signed postcard from movie star Adam Sandler and an autographed postcard from skateboarding phenom Tony Hawk to two signed footballs from Penn State University football head coach Joe Paterno and, of course, books from J.K. Rowling, Mike Thaler and Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson.

Depending on the bidder's taste as well as the number of reading points accumulated, the final sale prices generated by volunteer auctioneer Craig Knepper were greatly varied. Even though some students found themselves disappointed at not having enough points to continue their successful bidding, they received constant, gentle reminders from the McConnellsburg auctioneer that they had an entire year to read more and accumulate points.

Meanwhile, some of the more hotly sought-after prizes included a pair of ballet slippers from the New York City Ballet that had been worn by a dancer originally from the Altoona, Pa., area as well as tickets to attend a taping of "Wheel of Fortune" television game show purchased by student Hannah Brady. Brady, according to Ott, has already made plans to travel to California with her aunt to attend the show.

Ott stated the reading auction received rave reviews from the participating student body, and she is already receiving student requests to hold another auction next year.

"I always give prizes at the end of the year, but the kids really loved the auction," concluded Ott following the event.

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