CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 1,800 people teamed up this year, the year of West Virginia's sesquicentennial, to try to read 150 books -- one for each year of statehood.Now, as the state grows one year older, they're being asked to read that much again, plus one more.The Kanawha County Public Library is renewing its West Virginia Reads Challenge this year. Originally, the vision for the project was a one-year challenge in honor of West Virginia's sesquicentennial: local people would form teams and together try to, in one year, read 150 books.The response was overwhelming. Terry Wooten, marketing and development manager for the Kanawha County library system, said they originally hoped that 100 teams would register for the project. In the end, it was almost 300.
The idea grew beyond Kanawha County's borders too -- the state Library Commission liked it, and promoted it statewide. That statewide effort will also continue in the new year. The new challenge has been dubbed "West Virginia Reads 150 Plus."The rules of West Virginia Reads challenge are simple: people form teams, and read books together throughout the year, trying to accumulate a shared total of at least 151. The books can be in any format -- printed books, e-books or audiobooks -- and from any source.For West Virginia Reads 150, teams were limited to 15 people, but the library is lifting that requirement this year. Wooten said officials heard of a number of classrooms that wanted to take part but couldn't because of the 15-person maximum.Teams can be formed from people with any sort of relationship - families, friends, classmates or book clubs, among a slew of other things. And It's open to readers of all ages. If a child is too young to read on their own, parents are encouraged to count the books read to them toward the team goal.There's no prize at the end of the year, other than pride. And Wooten said that seems to have been plenty to encourage people to take part."I think people just enjoy reading as a group and talking about the books they read," she said.The library sends each team a newsletter every month highlighting the success of one reading group -- and that seems to inspire the teams to keep reading.The library still isn't sure how many teams have completed the challenge - those numbers won't come in until after the first of the year. But Wooten said she thinks it will be a substantial number.She's already heard of a lot of teams that reached the 150-book benchmark, and then kept reading."We're telling them to keep reading," she said. "The sky's the limit."Contact writer Shay Maunz at email@example.com or 304-348-4886.