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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)


It's no secret that I love to read, but recently I've been struggling to find the time. A few years ago, I used to read at least one book a week, now it's more like one book a month. Friends of mine who also love to read complain that they struggle to pick up a book at all.

Life is busy, and there are often a lot of things on our to do lists that we consider 'essential', like catching up on work or paying bills. Unless we have all of those things ticked off (does that ever happen?) it can be hard to let ourselves switch off the screens and pick up a book.

I am currently in the midst of planning a wedding and have found that since I got engaged, my reading pace has slowed a lot. My pointless internet surfing, however, has increased. That's the issue: even if you're procrastinating and not doing what you're meant to be doing, you'll just pass the time doing other things to distract yourself and the next thing you know, you're neither doing what you should do, nor what you want to do.

In my book club, we are currently reading Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin (which is equal parts fascinating and irritating... but that's a post for another day) and a few days ago I came across a very brief mention of the DEAR campaign, which until then I didn't know existed.

Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) is an American campaign run by children's author Beverly Cleary and supported by many organisations including National Education Association (NEA) and HarperCollins Children’s Books. The campaign is a national month-long celebration of reading, held each April, designed to "remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives".

The campaign couldn't be simpler, and involves teachers simply scheduling time in to their students day (or as homework) to drop everything they are doing and pick up a book. There are also events and free resources to encourage students to analyse what they're reading or try their hand at creative writing.

Just the very notion of dropping everything and reading really struck a cord with me. Of course it could be that simple outside of a school setting too. By simply allowing myself a slot in my day or week to make reading the priority it should be, I could get back the reading time I've been cheating myself of.

Reading, after all, is so important. Especially with several recent surveys indicating that reading for pleasure among the younger generations is in steep decline.

Literacy campaigner and iconic author, Neil Gaiman, recently gave a lecture for the Reading Agency in London during which he explained why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens. The lecture was edited in to an article which you can read here.

"I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing."

To read more about the DEAR campaign and how it's implemented in schools in the US, visit www.dropeverythingandread.com.

The National Literacy Trust here in the UK also runs a series of campaigns to improve literacy for all ages. Find out more at www.literacytrust.org.uk.

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