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Stepping up to the 1,000,000 page challenge

Crook, Jefferson county libraries go head-to-head in a summer reading challenge

by: SHELBY CASE/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - David Youngbluth is one of many Crook County residents participating in the 1,000,000 page challenge.

Humans have a perhaps strange, though admirable, propensity for wanting to compete.
   There's Japanese professional speed-eater Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi, who recently ate hot dogs. Lots of hot dogs. He wolfed down 53 3/4 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.
   Then there's the 1950s, when college students would try to cram as many fellow youth as possible into Volkswagen Beetles.
   Or you could try the Crook County Library One Million Page Challenge this summer.
   Library Outreach Services Coordinator Margo Ashcraft said the library has a summer reading program for children and teenagers.
   "A lot of libraries have summer reading programs for children and teens and adults as well, and we had never done one for adults," she said. "They (adults) don)t have as much time to devote to an actual reading program."
   "We thought it (the reading contest) would be a way for adults to be involved at the library during the summer, but without attending and that it would be fun," Ashcraft said.
   Assistant Library Director Cheryl Hancock found out about the idea of a million-page reading challenge from a list service she belongs to "and it sounded fun."
   The contest is open to county residents ages 16 and older. Crook County residents simply fill out a bookmark-style form. Filling out your name is optional, but the form provides a space for the book title and number of pages read. Patrons need to count every page they read and this is limited to library materials only, including magazines, paperbacks and newspapers The deadline to read those million pages is Aug. 21, 2006.
   "So far, and this is only the third week, we have 68 participants for the Million Page Challenge," said Hancock. "I believe there are a lot more readers out there who have not yet turned in their logs."
   Library staff members tally the results each week.
   "The first week, we didn't do so well. The second week, we posted the numbers and I think that fired up the patrons," Ashcraft added.
   The library is challenging the Jefferson County Library to see which library's patrons can read the most number of pages.
   The first week of the challenge, Crook County residents read 3,578 pages to Jefferson County's 7,253 pages, from last week.
   Ashcraft and other library staff personnel are emphasizing that reading is fun.
   "And so far I think people are really enjoying it," she said. "They are getting into the spirit of things."
   In fact, Jefferson County Library personnel have brought in the Warm Springs Library as part of the challenge. But that just means Crook County Library staff members are asking for Crook County patrons to show what they are made of when it comes to reading.
   "So we want people in Post, Paulina and Powell Butte to help out," Ashcraft said. "We want them to get into the spirit too."
   Now Crook County is definitely in the lead. Hancock said that 23,902 pages had been read by Jefferson County residents as of this past Monday. By comparison, Crook County residents have read 71,361 pages.
   Patron David Youngbluth has been among those reading for the challenge. He has been a library patron for about eight years, ever since he retired. Youngbluth worked as the principal at Bend High School and later at Boardman's Riverside High School.
   "You know, you see a lot of things like this for kids and I know that stimulates them a lot intellectually to be involved, but I've never seen anything like this for adults," said Youngbluth. "So it's the community versus community reason as well."
   "I'm a voracious reader, so I've read several. I was at the library yesterday and picked up more," he said. "I probably read three or four books a week anyway."
   Youngbluth has turned in his third book slip and estimates that so far, he has read 6,000 to 7,000 pages. He took a speed reading class in college. At the start of the class, he read about 350 words per minute with an 85 percent comprehension rate. At the end of the class, he was up to about 3,600 words per minute, again with an 85 percent comprehension rate.
   A trophy will go to whichever library reaches a million pages first. If neither library reaches that goal, the trophy then goes to whichever library has read the most pages.
   Youngbluth is optimistic that Crook County Library will win the challenge.
   "I do think Crook County will win," he said. "I think we're blessed with a wonderful library here and I think our library staff is really excellent, so I'd have to go with Crook County."
   Hancock said the challenge is also being tied into the Crook County Library's 75th anniversary. The idea is to bring as many county residents into the library as possible and get them reading.
   "We hope to get as many people participating in the community as possible," Hancock said. "Keep on reading."