Milton Hershey’s Passion for Reading and Literacy
Reading was an integral part of Milton Hershey’s life. His father, Henry, possessed a passion for reading and although he only had a basic education, Milton Hershey had extraordinary concentration. It was said that Mr. Hershey read the entire “Les Misérables” novel by Victor Hugo without coming out of his room for three days except to do an errand that took 20 minutes.
With his interest in reading and literacy, Milton Hershey made sure it was a part of Milton Hershey School from its earliest days. Learn more about the history of reading at MHS!
Books for Every Grade Level
In the first viewbook about the school in 1912, we learn that “the school does and always will give the boys a good English course in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history.” The 1926 viewbook contains a listing of books available to students in each grade, including a series of “Four Little Cotton Tails” for first-graders, “Robinson Crusoe” for second grade, and many biographies in the upper grades.
The students had a required number of books to read before advancing to the next grade.
In an article about reading in the April 1934 issue of the student-produced School Industrialist, a student shared that, “Reading is a way of educating yourself … someone has said that you can tell what a man is like by what he reads.”
An Inviting Atmosphere
When the Junior-Senior High School opened in the fall of 1934, the library contained 1,350 volumes. The librarian hosted a library club and celebrated “Book Week” during the first year. The academic honor roll, called The Battle of the Books, was published in the School Industrialist so students could be proud of their academic performance.
In the 1950s, the elementary and high school libraries were popular with their inviting atmospheres. Students read about their favorite scientific subjects or simply enjoyed a good book of fiction or adventure.
Today’s Focus on Literacy
Today, Milton Hershey School has libraries in all three academic divisions, including a Learning Resource Center at the high school level. The Learning Resource Center gives students a space to express themselves creatively and collaborate with their peers through the use of electronic databases, wireless access for student laptops, a student-run writing center, and community engagement activities such as poetry slams.
MHS alumni also help promote school-wide literacy through the annual Go RED (Go Read Every Day) program. During the yearly GO RED events, alumni return to campus to read to elementary students and reconnect with the school that sparked their love for literature.
Through literacy programs designed for each grade level, Milton Hershey School is empowering more than 2,000 students in pre-K through 12th grade to develop a lifelong appreciation for reading—an appreciation that founder Milton Hershey also shared throughout his lifetime.