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Read Across Russell County smashes expectations

Hopes were high that the first in-person Read Across Russell County program in two years would be a hit, but Tuesday’s event surpassed even the boldest expectations.

After a successful 2020 iteration saw approximately 200 attendees pass through the Russell County Public Library, organizers hoped to duplicate that participation this year. Instead, they almost doubled it. 

“We were nearly at 400 people — if we add staff, we hit the 400,” says Brooke Bartrug, President of the Russell County Education Association (RCEA). “I attribute [the increase in attendance] to a lot of the media coverage from the different sources in our community and the schools. I think that the schools did a really good job promoting it trying to get the youth out there.”

There were a host of activities for the hundreds who showed up. Middle and high schoolers scattered across the premises read children’s books to younger attendees, other volunteers manned face-painting stations, there was a button-making booth for customized pins, a green screen allowed students to put themselves into the middle of their favorite stories, and plenty more.

“I think it was an amazing night, and I’m so proud of our community and the engagement,” Bartrug says. “It was wonderful to see the older kids with the younger kids, all the adults and the interaction. I’m excited, excited to see where this can go, excited to see how this can help with the enjoyment of reading and putting that focus on kids.”

The project was a community effort spearheaded by RCEA (a branch of the Kentucky Education Association), which provided funding. The association presented the event in collaboration with the library. Pizza Hut donated enough pizza to give a free slice to everyone who attended, as well as personal pan coupons for young reading enthusiasts. Russell County Schools promoted the affair and brought in students by the literal busload. 

“We were very happy with the amount of high schoolers that came out, and middle school students that came out to be there for our younger generation,” Bartrug says. 

Bartrug says that the green-screen photos taken at the event “will be published on the local library page within the next few days.”

From left, Alivia, Adalyn, and Breyton Crawhorn enjoy a few slices of pizza Tuesday night at Read Across Russell County.
Devin Dunbar, 11, has a custom pin designed and pressed Tuesday at Read Across Russell County, held at the Russell County Library.
Russell County High School NJROTC cadets read to kids Tuesday night at Read Across Russell County, held at the Russell County Library.
Everly Royse, 4, had a big time with the green screen at Read Across Russell County, proclaiming Tuesday “the best day ever.”
Addison Helm applied face paint to Greyson Dugger, 7, Tuesday, March 29 at Read Across Russell County. Dugger appeared to thoroughly enjoy the experience.
RCHS football players were the celebrities du jour to youngsters in attendance Tuesday night at the local library for Read Across Russell County.
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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.