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Students Read to Show There’s More to Oakland Than Crime

January 30, 1992

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ A group of high school students staged a marathon reading of Dostoevski to show there’s more to Oakland than crime and punishment.

″Oakland has a bad reputation about being a crack town. This will really contrast that,″ said 18-year-old Yimin Feng, as he munched on a doughnut and gulped down coffee.

″Oakland public schools are like any other,″ Feng said. ″Students study every night.″

Feng and 16 other Oakland High School students began reading ″Crime and Punishment,″ one of the Russian author’s masterworks, out loud at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

By the halfway point Thursday morning, they had completed 346 of the book’s 574 pages. Most of the students, who take time out from their labors when they have a class, admitted they were sleepy.

But they said they would continue until 10 p.m., and would continue on to a second Dostoevski work, possibly ″The Brothers Karamazov,″ if they finished the first.

English teacher Paul August has sponsored three similar fund-raising read- a-thons in other years. Other classes have read Homer’s ″Odyssey″ and Shakespearean tragedies.

A 30-hour reading marathon would be a school record. The last one, in 1990, lasted 29 1/2 hours and raised $1,800. The money, raised from friends and relatives, went toward the college-bound students’ advanced placement test fees.

″I want to be able to show the world that these kids are not just thugs on drugs,″ said August, who took a nap Thursday morning before the final stretch of reading.

Though the read-a-thon was also a fund-raiser, 17-year-old Cynthia Wong said she wanted to use it to encourage people to think about picking up a book before turning on the tube.

″I made the commitment ... mostly to get our message out that reading is very important. We’re pushing literacy,″ said Wong, who rested her head on a pillow as another student read aloud.

Wong admitted, though, that Dostoevski was not the first choice for a bedtime story.

″We wanted Stephen King, something that would keep us up,″ she said, calling Dostoevski ″kind of challenging to get through and stay awake.″

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