In an effort to promote literacy, students in western New York state tried last week to break the Guinness world record for the largest number of people in different locations reading out loud simultaneously.
The Buffalo News, through its Newspapers in Education department, initiated the challenge, in part to familiarize children with newspapers.
At 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, students in more than 500 schools in and around Buffalo all read a poem by the late Shel Silverstein called “Hug O’ War” that was printed in the newspaper.
“We chose this poem because it is easy to read, it has a good message, and because of the beloved author,” said Cindy Sterner, the manager of educational services at The Buffalo News.
When the organizers signed up to try to break a record on the Web site of Guinness World Records Ltd., the English company that maintains and sponsors such records, they were told they would have to break the record set by 3,700 British students in 2000.
However, the situation became more complicated last month, as the read-along date neared, when organizers learned that 11,927 students in 16 schools in Hong Kong had already broken the new record.
Even though 90,000 Buffalo-area students were assembled from 300 schools a week before the contest, Guinness World Records informed the organizers that yet another record had been verified. On March 19, 155,528 British students from 737 schools read a poem simultaneously and aloud.
“Being from Buffalo, we are not giving up,” Ms. Sterner said early last week.
A couple of days before the contest, organizers were trying to reach more schools in order to assemble 160,000 students, with the help of a local radio station.
Students were excited about the opportunity, Ms. Sterner said. “We wanted to do something fun, so the kids would enjoy reading.”
This week, Ms. Sterner expects to find out whether the effort indeed set a new world record.