Sunday, November 30, 2008

BC drops everything and reads!

BC Teacher: 2008 November
Karen Lindsay

On September 2, 2008, the British Columbia Teacher-librarians’ Association challenged not only students and teachers, but the premier, members of the legislature, and people across BC to “Drop Everything and Read” for 20 minutes on Monday, October 27.

For many years, teacher-librarians have organized special school events to mark National School Library Day on the fourth Monday in October. This was the first year they took their celebration to the general public, and the response was wonderful. Hundreds of people signed up on the Drop Everything and Read Facebook page, and hundreds more on the BCTLA’s DEAR blog. People signed on from across BC and as far away as Israel!

Teacher-librarians agree that making BC the most literate province in Canada is a worthy goal. An educated population makes the province wealthy in so many ways. As teachers, they also know the impact that good modeling has on children. Seeing the adults around them put aside business for a few minutes to let pleasure reading be their priority sent a powerful message.

Originally the brainchild of Surrey teacher-librarian Bonnie Chapman, the Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Challenge was tested in many schools across the province on National School Library Day last year. Hundreds of BC students engaged in silent reading from 11:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. that day, and the response was terrific. “You could hear a pin drop!” “Kids didn’t want to stop after 20 minutes.”

This year’s campaign really seemed to capture people’s imaginations. Teachers and teacher-librarians invited their MLA, the mayor, trustees, their superintendent, local athletes and actors to come and read with their students—and they did! Parents took the DEAR challenge into their workplaces where they read quietly for 20 minutes away from the phones. Finance Minister Carole Taylor set aside “some pleasurable reading time in the Vancouver-Langara constituency office.” Premier Campbell commended the BCTLA on the initiative. And Education Minister Shirley Bond celebrated National School Library by taking part in the Drop Everything and Read challenge. At Carson Graham Secondary School in North Vancouver, students, and staff were joined by Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Steven Point in celebration of First Nations literacy.

Responses from schools were the stuff that warms a teacher-librarian’s heart. Several schools wrote to say they were going to Drop Everything and Read every month for the rest of the year. DEAR went well enough in some high schools that they are now willing to pilot a daily silent reading program that could become a permanent part of their timetable.

The BCTLA would love to see the DEAR campaign grow so that in the next few years other provinces take up the challenge as well. Given a few years’ practice, I think BC could take on the whole country in a DEAR challenge! One of the best things about DEAR is the way it puts everyone on the same page, if you’ll excuse the expression. No matter where you are politically, you can get behind the value of a few minutes’ peaceful reading. If your school was not involved this year, do not despair; DEAR will be back to celebrate National School Library Day 2009.

Karen Lindsay is teacher-librarian at Ecole Reynolds Secondary, Richmond.

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