MARIETTA - The Center for Student Success at Washington State Community College has initiated a "Take a Book, Leave a Book" program for students and community members.
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.
Ethan Kirl, Ben Blackwell, Erin Riordan and Scott Monaghan stand in Barking Dog Books & Art in Marietta. (Photo Provided)
Ethan Kirl, Erin Riordan and Lee Campbell of Paperback Palace in Vienna stand along with Ben Blackwell and Katie Blackwell. (Photo Provided)
Ethan Kirl, Erin Riordan and Jason McCrady of J& M’s Used Bookstore in Parkersburg stand along with Katie Blackwell and Ben Blackwell. (Photo Provided)
"When I was younger, I also thought reading was really boring," said 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."
Studies have shown that by reading more, even for enjoyment, it will increase the potential for knowledge. According to the ACT website, only 51 percent 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 admits to reading for personal enjoyment or academic enrichment, according to a press release.
"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 stocked with a variety of books from many genres: romance, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, sports, biographies, action/adventure, suspense, and a substantial collection of Marvel and DC comic books.
They are all free-but the program works best when students keep the collection interesting by leaving the books that they've finished in exchange, the college said.
All of the books shelved were donated by book stores in the Mid-Ohio Valley: Paperback Palace of Vienna donated several bags of young adult fiction; J&M's Used Bookstore in Parkersburg donated several boxes of books featuring the fantasy and thriller genres, and Barking Dog Books and Art LLC in Marietta donated an extensive collection of books featuring "fang fiction" novels and 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," said 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 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, Blackwell said.
As the program's slogan promises, "Come with a story and leave with another."