Throughout April, I’ll be tackling 26 A to Z topics related to children’s literature. For “D” day, I’m honoring one of my favorite programs of all time: D.E.A.R.
It was always my favorite week of the school year.
On Friday of the previous week, all students were sent home with a reminder to bring a book to class every day. Not a textbook, but rather a novel or other volume to read for pleasure. If we didn’t bring a book, we’d be assigned one or sent to the library to find one.
When Monday rolled around, I would wait all morning (and usually a good chunk of the afternoon) waiting to hear the ping of the PA system, when the principal or a secretary would announce to the school at large, “It’s time to drop everything and read!”
There was always a delightful scramble when pens and paper would be pushed aside, students would grab their books, and everyone would dash for the best reading spots in the classroom. I was slightly disappointed on the days when I missed out on a bean bag, but the disappointment was fleeting. It was the middle of the school day, and I got to kick back and read!
Even though D.E.A.R. Week — or Drop Everything and Read Week — is a childhood memory, the program still is going strong. In fact, April is a month-long celebration of D.E.A.R., with one date in particular honored as National D.E.A.R. Day. Mark your calendars for a week from today — D.E.A.R. Day is Tuesday, April 12.
The mission of D.E.A.R. is to remind people to make reading a priority in their lives. On April 12, families are encouraged to participate in D.E.A.R. by setting aside 30 minutes to read, either individually or aloud together.
Schools and libraries nationwide continue to honor the program as well. The American Library Association encourages readers to “drop” in during Drop Everything and Read to find a comfortable place to sit and curl up with a book. Some schools devote an afternoon to D.E.A.R., while others take a full week to devote a half hour a day to reading.
This year’s D.E.A.R. Day has an extra bit of significance. The day was designated on April 12 because that date coincides with Beverly Cleary’s birthday. Cleary was born April 12, 1916, which means this year marks her 100th birthday.
Cleary is perhaps best known for her books about Ramona Quimby. Cleary’s own children participated in D.E.A.R. when they were in school, which led Cleary to include a passage about the program in her 1981 book “Ramona Quimby, Age 8.”
To learn more about D.E.A.R., check out the program’s website at dropeverythingandread.com.