New Free Book Exchange Program at WSCC Challenges Students to Read for Fun

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20130923 bookThe Center for Student Success at Washington State Community College (WSCC) has initiated a "Take a Book, Leave a Book" program for students and community members alike. Inspired by the "free little library" movement across the globe, the Center for Student Success has set up an area of bookshelves where students can borrow and exchange a wide selection of popular paperbacks.

After hearing a student complain that "reading is boring," AmeriCorps College Guide and the program's co-founder Ben Blackwell suggested starting the "Take a Book, Leave a Book" program to help get students more excited about reading.

"When I was younger, I also thought reading was really boring," admitted Blackwell. "But once I began reading for fun, I realized that it was not only entertaining, but really beneficial to my education. My vocabulary and writing skills increased greatly just from reading books like Harry Potter and Hunger Games."

Many studies have shown that by reading more, even for enjoyment, it will increase the potential for knowledge. According to the ACT website, only 51% of ACT-tested high school graduates in Ohio met the English ACT College Readiness Benchmark, while only 44% percent of all the nation's high school graduates met the Reading Benchmark in 2013. At WSCC, only 1 in 5 students admit to reading for personal enjoyment or academic enrichment.

"The idea is: if students read for fun outside of the classroom, they will be more successful in literature-heavy college courses," said Erin Riordan, an AmeriCorps VISTA Program Coordinator at WSCC and co-founder of the Take a Book program. "Even if you think that you read way too much in class, just try picking up a book in a genre that interests you, and I guarantee that you will feel rejuvenated."

The "Take a Book, Leave a Book" shelves are currently stocked with a variety of books from many genres: Romance, Historical, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Sports, Biographies, Action/Adventure, Suspense, and even a substantial collection of Marvel and DC comic books. And the best part? They are all freeā€”but the program works best when students keep the collection interesting by leaving the books that they've finished in exchange.

All of the books currently shelved were generously donated by local book stores in the Mid-Ohio Valley: Paperback Palace (28th St., Vienna, WV) donated several bags of young adult fiction; J&M's Used Bookstore (Blizzard Dr., Parkersburg, WV) donated several boxes of books featuring excellent picks in the fantasy and thriller genres; Barking Dog Books and Art LLC (Putnam St., Marietta, OH) donated an extensive collection of books featuring several "fang fiction" novels and many popular books that have been made into cinematic features.

"The Mid-Ohio Valley, and Appalachia as a whole, currently struggles with poor reading and writing skills among all age-groups," commented Blackwell. "I would like to see this program create a reading environment that thrives at WSCC, and especially in our community."

Blackwell and Riordan urge students and community members alike to take advantage of this free book exchange program. Visit the WSCC Center for Student Success for more information and pick up a book of your own. As the program's slogan promises, "Come with a story and leave with another." For more information by calling 740- 374-8716 contact Ben Blackwell ext. 1548 or Erin Riordan ext. 1635.

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