Drop Everything and Read! (an op-ed)
April 10, 2021 Debbie Poslosky
When I was a classroom teacher, we implemented this program school wide. Some years we would combine with Buddy Reads and older grades would be matched up with younger grades. I love the idea of a whole school community stopping the day and reading...yet…
As a teacher passionate to support children as they learn the skill of reading, but also the pure joy of reading, it doesn’t just happen because it is D.E.A.R. day. Young children grades 4-8 need to be ready for this activity, in my humble opinion. They need to have built stamina and endurance for reading. Those kids who are strong readers and love to sit and have uninterrupted reading time will try their hardest to do what they love to do. But those around him or her are sometimes distracting because they are not at the same place. It becomes frustrating for the ones who want to read and not be bothered, and it becomes a “putting out the fire” for the teacher for the kids who are not quite understanding the concept yet. I eventually did a read aloud during that time and allowed those who could handle the time, the opportunity to snuggle in somewhere quiet in the library. That worked out pretty well.
As I learned from my students through my many years of teaching, kids do want to be able to read like the one sitting next to them. And if reading is a little challenging, or they haven’t found that one book or author to hook them in, they are very sensitive to the fact that in their own mind they are not as capable as their peers-especially the tweens who tend to catastrophe everything!
It is such a great community building focus on reading! It truly is. But if we stop a minute and think about the group that will benefit the most from a school wide program, it is often not the students! It is great P.R. and parents love knowing their school has this. However,the program is great for a few, but not so much across the board, So I would challenge schools and the decision makers to include students in the discussion to hear first hand what it feels like to be told it is time for D.E.A.R day. I asked my class that very question one year, and from that moment on I changed my philosophy. I took a survey and just like I thought several LOVED it, but others felt like while they were good readers with me or their support teacher, they did not feel that way on that day. So I got permission from my principal and on that day my students got to vote on how they wanted to spend their 30 minutes. (I also had veto power!) It was so interesting to me to learn how honest kids are if given the chance. Choices would vary, but mostly they were to read the entire time silently, listen to a read aloud with me, read with one partner, or take the time to go to another teacher in the building and read with him or her. When that nuance of D.E.A.R. was instituted, everyone felt heard, the buy-in was complete and it was extremely successful! Because in 5 months, 5 years, 5 decades, we want these children to WANT to drop everything and pick up a good book!