Students’ flashy video promotes love of reading

How can plain old reading ever compete for the attention of kids, immersed in a world of YouTube videos and Angry Birds?

By taking a page from the competition — using flashes, explosions and other special effects to invoke the feeling of wonder that can spring from the written word.

These were some of the techniques that helped two Cascade High School sophomores win an annual teen video competition to promote reading sponsored by Sno-Isle Libraries.

The winning entry, called “The Magic of Reading,” was produced by Adam McArthur and Joe Nissell, and beat out 18 other entries. They won a $75 gift certificate from Best Buy. Other teens in Stanwood and Camano Island won prizes based on votes from other teens.

“The Magic of Reading” video features a 9-year-old boy entering a library. “I just don’t get the big deal about books,” he said. He was about to find out. He opens a Harry Potter book to a flash and explosion and is instantly transported into a field at night and is engaged in a wizard wand battle.

“We were thinking, ‘How could we make this interesting, fun to watch and educational?’ ” McArthur said. “Harry Potter is one of the biggest kids’ books of all time. We thought what if someone went into a Harry Potter book and took it from there.”

The video lasts just under two minutes but it took the two students an estimated 75 hours to plan, produce and edit it.

The hardest part of the project was making the scene involving the wizard wand battle, shot during the daytime, appear to have taken place at night.

“You had to switch out the sky and make it look like night time,” McArthur said. They tried once, figured it could use some improvement, and then tried again before getting the effects they wanted.

Some of the scenes took 15 to 20 takes, said Scott Shafer Cascade’s video arts teacher. He should know. He’s featured in a cameo role as a librarian in the film.

His son, Eli Shafer, is the boy who initially didn’t get the big deal about books, but was transformed by the wonder of imagination.

The two students had to learn how to direct other people in the video, including Eli, who sometimes grew tired of the constant retakes and sometimes having cameras and a video light just inches from his face, Shafer said.

“Getting him to react appropriately was a directorial challenge for them,” he said. “They did a really good job.”

Cascade librarian Amalia Pimenta has shown the video to the school’s students to try to motivate them to read.

“It takes you back in time to elementary school when you used to tear though books,” she said.

McArthur and Nissell met in kindergarten and have been friends ever since. They made their first video when they were seventh graders.

One evening when the two were together, “we got bored and started telling jokes and laughing,” McArthur said. They got out a video camera and have been making films ever since.

Students in Cascade’s video arts class have access to sophisticated film industry standard cameras and software, Shafer said.

He critiqued the winning video as “well done, polished and clean.”

“It’s just a great piece,” he said. “These are two sophomores. Imagine what they’ll be doing in two years.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

Talk to us

More in Local News

Photo by David Welton
A federal grant will help pay for the cost of adding a charging station to the Clinton ferry terminal.
Federal money to help electrify Clinton ferry dock

The Federal Transit Administration awarded state ferries a $4.9 million grant to help electrify the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

Community Transit is leasing a 60-foot articulated BYD battery electric bus this year as an early step in the zero emission planning process. (Community Transit)
Community Transit testing 60-foot electric bus

The agency leased the BYD K11M for $132,000 this year as the first step in its zero-emission planning process.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Amid patient woes, CHC of Snohomish County staffers push for a union

Doctors and nurse practitioners are worried about providers being shut out from clinical decisions, which hurts patient care.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Public school enrollment still down, even as rural districts grow

Smaller districts in Snohomish County seem to be recovering more quickly — and gaining students — than their urban counterparts.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A holiday for Lunar New Year, a return of green and white license plates

It’s Day 29. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

FILE - This scanning electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows rod-shaped Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. U.S. health officials are advising people to stop using the over-the-counter eye drops, EzriCare Artificial Tears, that have been linked to an outbreak of drug-resistant infections of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday night, Feb. 1, 2023, sent a health alert to physicians, saying the outbreak includes at least 55 people in 12 states. One died. (Janice Haney Carr/CDC via AP)
Eye drops linked to Snohomish County man’s death

Amid dozens of non-fatal infections, federal health leaders this week urged people to stop using EzriCare Artificial Tears.

Switzerland delegate Markus Herrmann listens while 12th grade students speak with him during a special event set up for their AP Comparative Government class at Glacier Peak High School on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
European delegates talk American culture with Glacier Peak students

Representatives from 18 different EU countries made a stop in Snohomish during their US tour.

Charlie Pancerzewski (Courtesy of Pancerzewski family)
Mukilteo citizen watchdog, 83, spoke for ‘the facts and the truth’

“It is fitting that the public see (Charlie Pancerzewski’s) name when they get up to the podium for public comment,” the mayor said.

A suspect removes a rifle bag from a broken rear window of a Seattle police car on May 30 in downtown Seattle. An Everett man, Jacob D. Little, 24, has been charged with the theft of the high-powered rifle stolen from the car. This image is from the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. 20200904
Everett man sentenced for stealing police gun in Seattle protest

Jacob Little, 26, now faces second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing a man in Renton in August 2020.

Most Read