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York City schools will be flooded March 16 with male community members reading to students of all ages.

The annual Reading IS Essential: 100 Men Reading Program has taken place in the district each year for the past six years. The program aims to get at least 100 local men to go into York City schools and read to different classes, according to lead organizer Marquez Mitchell.

Mitchell has been in charge of the program for three years, and each year it grows a little more, he said. Last year more than 150 volunteers turned out for the event, and this year he said he's hoping to top that.

When organizers get at least 100 men, every student from Pre-K to 12th-grade is able to have a community member read or speak to them. Mitchell explained that students in seventh through 12th have mentors and motivational speakers rather than someone reading to them. The program allows students to interact with potential male role models in the community.

Organizers say the program has already crossed the 100-volunteer mark for this year's event.

"It think with this program it unifies and shows how strong York can be," Mitchell said.

The day: On the day of the event, the volunteers arrive at William Penn Senior High School at 7 a.m. for an orientation, where they receive the schedule of classes they'll be reading to. Mitchell said the time also allows the volunteers to converse and network with each other.

After orientation, the volunteers have the opportunity to meet administrators and school representatives from the York City School District and York Academy. After that, everyone goes to their assigned classrooms and reads or speaks to the students.

Volunteers can bring their own books to read to students or ask students what book they would like to hear. Some teachers have a book picked out already for the volunteer to read, based on what the students are  studying. Mitchell said every classroom might work differently.

"I’ve brought books, but I’ve never read my own book because students and teachers have their own preferences," he said. "It’s about the students; we want them to have a fun experience."

After reading, there is a time for students to interact with the volunteer and ask questions. This is volunteer David Orr's favorite part of the process. The March 16 event will be the fourth time Orr, a 57-year-old York City resident who is semi-retired, has participated in the 100 Men Reading event.

"You talk to them a bit, show them they can succeed in life," Orr said. "I think that’s the main reason I keep going back."

After the volunteers have read to their classrooms, a luncheon is held at the Crispus Attucks Youthbuild Charter School.

Rewarding: For the volunteers, the whole day is very rewarding, according to Orr, particularly to see the students of color react to mentors of color.

"The kids of color, they see someone that looks like them and is reading to them," he said. "I can see how it affects the kids."

Orr said he would definitely recommend more men participate, particularly younger men in their 20s or 30s so students can see people who are like father-figures as well. He said there are quite a few young adults who volunteer, but he would love to see that group grow even more.

"I believe it's a chance to give back to the community," Orr said. "To let the kids know someone cares about them."

Mitchell said he will continue to take volunteer applications until March 15, the day before the event. There's no criteria the volunteer needs to meet in order to participate in the event. Any and all are welcome.

In order to participate, simply email Mitchell your interest at marquez.mitchell11men@yahoo.com.

Even more important than the rewards the volunteers see are the rewards the kids get, Orr said. During the event students can open up their minds and escape into the magical world of a book, hopefully encouraging them to read more on their own.

"The little ones should know the importance of reading," he said. "It opens their mind and takes them around the world."

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