SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Five students set a world record Wednesday after reading aloud for 300 straight hours to raise awareness about books in the Dominican Republic. And they kept going.
Guinness World Records recognized the university students for breaking the previous record of 240 hours set in 2009 by a group of women from Miami Dade College.
"This is a very important case because it deals with reading and promotes intellectualism," said Michael Janela, a Guinness official who certified the record.
He called it a tremendous sacrifice.
"There is no time to sleep, nor even to eat," he said. "Sometimes they are reading by themselves at dawn, without support."
In preparation for the bid, participants practiced reading up to three hours a day for two years, said Cristian Rodriguez, a 23-year-old communications student.
The students began reading July 7 at a library just northwest of the capital, taking turns before a microphone every two hours. They chose to read the complete works of historian and former Dominican President Juan Bosch. The project was being transmitted live on the Internet.
The students had planned to stop Wednesday but decided to extend the reading until early Saturday to complete 365 hours of reading, one hour for each day of the year.
Guinness officials will continue to monitor the reading to verify the final time.
"Dominicans stay up late for parties, stay up late for dancing and for drinking in the street, why can't they stay up late to support us?" said Carlos Jose Reyes, a 34-year-old librarian who organized the group in 2008 while brainstorming with a friend, Randolfo Jimenez, about how to entice more people to start reading.
Both Reyes and Jimenez are members of a local writing group and have published several poetry books.
Reyes hopes the new record will inspire young people to read at least one hour a day and encourage business owners to help update the selection of books in libraries across the Dominican Republic.
"A lot of times they only have obsolete, out-of-date books that do not fulfill students' expectations," he said.
Only 39 percent of primary schools in the Caribbean nation have a library, compared with 51 percent of primary schools across Latin America, according to statistics from the United Nations.
"We're going to make reading hip," said Jose Manuel Bueno, a 19-year-old philosophy student.