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‘Drop Everything And Read’

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 16, 2007

The smiles, gasps and cries of delight from the kindergartners sitting in their classroom at Washington Elementary School Tuesday morning were evidence of a morning well spent. 

The kids had just been in a reading session with Berkeley Public library Librarian Emma Coleman, as part of the Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day Celebration in Berkeley schools on March 13. 

“160 volunteers, including 30 city employees, signed up to volunteer to read to students. The idea was to get everyone to read,” said BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan. 

City of Berkeley employees took a morning break from their work to take part in the DEAR day celebrations that started at 9 a.m. Readers included Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who read to fifth graders at Washington Elementary, and City Councilmember Linda Maio who dropped by LeConte Elementary. 

Besides councilmembers, readers also included fire fighters, police officers, librarians, Berkeley Rotary members, Bayer HealthCare employees, UC Berkeley students and community members. Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor also read to students at Washington from her favorite children’s book. 

Volunteers assigned to an elementary or pre-school classroom read a book of their choice to students for 20 minutes, after which the kids returned to their normal school day schedule. 

City officials get involved in DEAR Day as part of a citywide campaign to increase opportunities for employees to volunteer time in the community. Passed by the City Council last fall, DEAR Day is the second major event to receive City volunteer participation. 

“Eleven elementary schools and three pre-schools in Berkeley Unified were covered,” Coplan said. “For many volunteers this is something they look forward to every year; for others it is often the beginning of a longer relationship as a Berkeley School Volunteer. These are community members, beyond all of the parents who help out in their children's classrooms.”