Elementary school students will be collecting pledges next week for a read-a-thon organized by the Whistler Public Library and the Myrtle Philip Community School Library. The concept of a read-a-thon was first put into action in 1988 in Whistler. Children gather pledges, record how long they read and what they read — or are read to — during a specific week, and then finally gather pledge money. The 1996 read-a-thon raised more than $4,900 for the two libraries as children read for more than 76,000 minutes. The funds raised go toward purchasing more children’s materials and sponsoring author readings. Participation in the read-a-thon is voluntary, however librarian Joan Richoz and teacher-librarian Ellen Bartlett hope to get children and their parents reading on a regular basis, and encouraging children to become life-long readers. Parents are important role models for children’s reading habits. Studies have shown that children who have been read to enter school with larger vocabularies, longer attention spans and a greater understanding of books and print. Pledge gathering for this year’s read-a-thon starts Monday, Feb. 2 and finishes Feb. 6. All participants who borrow books at the Whistler Public Library during this time will receive a special prize. At the end of the read-a-thon, book prizes will be given to those students who have read the most minutes or gathered the most pledges. All participants will receive a certificate and a book bag.