October 2015

Warm Up: The Reason for the Season

No, I’m not talking about Christmas, I’m talking about read-a-thon.

Back in the day – like, seven or eight years ago – read-a-thon was a wee thing. Fun, but it was a baby and had less than a 100 participants when it first started. My how it has grown! Now read-a-thon has 100s of readers signed up and boasts international participation. On read-a-thon day you can find folks participating across many blog platforms and social media channels. GoodReads. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. YouTube. You name it, we’re there. Readers are excited and taking ownership of the event by expressing a love of reading to a community of readers. It is one giant, collective fuzzy hug of book lover companionship.

This is exactly what Dewey intended. Ana, from things mean a lot, expressed Dewey and her goal for read-a-thon best: “She was kind in a no-nonsense sort of way, full of empathy, and genuinely interested in creating the kind of online community where you’re reminded of other people’s humanity at every turn.”

This is the spirit of read-a-thon: Kindness. Caring. Unity. Friendship.

The reason for the season. Have fun reading and making new friends across the globe.

Now, time for some family talk. It is very easy to get caught up in the bigness of read-a-thon and lose sight of why we are all doing this 24-hour crazy reading thing. Let’s talk about what read-a-thon is not about:

Read-a-thon has never been about increasing your personal brand online.

I know, ouch. I’m not saying that there are legions of participants who participate for cold glory and bragging rights. I truly don’t think this is intentional. Sort of like at holidays and weddings it is easy to get caught up in being perfect, best, or spending too much money. We can get competitive, jealous, or, if you’re like me and weirdly prone to unwarranted anxiety, feel left out of the festivities.

“Where is my cheerleader?” “The mini-challenge wasn’t explained right.” “I didn’t get a prize!” “NO ONE IS VISITING MY BLOG/RETWEETING/ETC?”

Read-a-thon was never (and will never) be about blog hits, soaring stats, the number of cheer visits, your popularity on Twitter, etc…. These things can be a great read-a-thon byproduct, but it isn’t the goal. Don’t get me wrong, I get a rush when we’re trending on Twitter (y’all, last year we out-trended One Direction!). I get it. It is validating to have people show their appreciation for you in lovely quantifiable ways.

But that isn’t community, that isn’t read-a-thon.

The best way to get that warm-fuzzy connection, and maybe a little more interaction with your read-a-thon, is to treat other participants like you treat your IRL friends. Reciprocate. Make a kind gesture. Help someone who is feeling discouraged. Take time to say hi on a blog. Encourage the volunteers and organizers who spend hours making read-a-thon work.

Reach out and I guarantee you that genuine interest in your fellow participants and focusing on the humanity of read-a-thon will preserve the reason for the season and make read-a-thon great for all.

Happy Read-a-thonning!

Thank you to Amanda from Fig and Thistle for a great, spirited reminder of why Dewey started this thing and why we’re still here!