24 reach goal of Andrews library bicentennial reading contest

Sharon Laupp, Dale Hawkins, Ronda Hawkins and Janice Harshbarger (from left) discuss their year of reading adventures at a party on Dec. 15 marking the end of the Andrews-Dallas Township Public Library’s bicentennial reading project, which challenged participants to read either 200 books or 200 hours in honor of Indiana’s 200th birthday.
Sharon Laupp, Dale Hawkins, Ronda Hawkins and Janice Harshbarger (from left) discuss their year of reading adventures at a party on Dec. 15 marking the end of the Andrews-Dallas Township Public Library’s bicentennial reading project, which challenged participants to read either 200 books or 200 hours in honor of Indiana’s 200th birthday. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Dec. 29, 2016.

The challenge was to read.

The goal was 200 — 200 books, or 200 hours — in celebration of Indiana’s 200th year.

Janice Harshbarger blew them all away.

She put in 735 hours of reading time.

“Which is only two hours a day,” she says. “It’s no big deal.”

Harshbarger accomplished the feat as part of the Andrews-Dallas Township Public Library’s 200 Club, sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

Thirty-eight readers, including five teens and four children, signed up for the challenge, earning Indiana-made products as they reached milestones along the way.

Twenty-four of those readers hit the magic 200 to take home an Indiana-shaped limestone paperweight made in Bedford. Of the 24 finishers, 20 read for 200 hours and four read 200 books.

Two of the youngest to claim the prize were siblings Emily and Ryan Perdue. Both read 200 books, as did Olivia Bolinger.

Emily, a third-grader at Andrews Elementary School, says she read almost every night, usually books she’d checked out from the Andrews library. She’s partial to the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.

First-grader Ryan likes the “Magic Tree House” books, and confesses to having some — perfectly legal — help.

“My mom read them to me,” he says.

The siblings’ grandmother, Mari Prange, also filled her record book with 200 hours of reading. That amounts to about 40 books, she says, many of them mysteries. Like Harshbarger, she says reading that much wasn’t a chore.

“I’ve always loved to read, through school and everything,” she says.

Dale Hawkins, another 200-hour reader, also didn’t find the challenge taxing.

“When we were in Florida for a couple of weeks, I probably read eight or 10 books,” he says.

His wife, Ronda Hawkins, says the challenge came at a perfect time for her.

“I retired from teaching last year, so it was perfect timing for me,” she says. “Once I get into a book, I can’t put it down. I’ll read until 2 or 3 in the morning.”

Staying up that late to finish a book didn’t mesh with getting up early to hit the classroom, so she developed a habit she still hasn’t broken.

“Are you still reading the end of the book before you start?” her husband asks.

“I do, sometimes,” she says.

“When I was teaching, that was the only way I could put a book down, if I knew how it ended,” she says. “But then I would go back and read every single page.”

Harshbarger says her 735 hours was less time than she thought she was spending with her nose in a book.

An author herself — she recently published “Only in Andrews,” a historical account of her hometown’s early days — she’s partial to historical books, both fiction and non-fiction, and biographies.

Those types of books tend to be thick, and Harshbarger figures it takes her 12 hours or more to get through one. At 12 hours a book, her 735 hours translate to 60 or so books.

“If I could read an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon, an hour in the evening and an hour before I go to bed, that would be a perfect day,” she says.

Other Andrews readers who completed the 200-hour challenge are Patricia Bigelow, Jayden Bolinger, Rylee Denney, Sandi Denney, Debra Harris, Brenda Kitt, Andrea Krumanaker, Catherine Krumanaker, Sharon Laupp, Elizabeth Manes, Charlotte Mitchell, Jodi Mook, Lisa Reinke, Karla Saalfrank-Manes, Rebecca Sandlin and Mary Scheffer.

The Huntington City-Township Public Library conducted a similar event, but did not release information about the participants.