Drop everything and read

AT THE stroke of mid-day on December 5 this year, groups of school students along with their teachers are planning to call a halt to all regular activity in the classroom, and read books silently for 2003 seconds.

It is all part of a global movement called "Read for 2003", which calls on everyone to observe "DEAR time", to highlight the importance of reading for profit and pleasure, and enrich life in the process as well.

``DEAR'' is short for "Drop Everything and Read''. Though the programme is usually carried out on December 6, it is being advanced by a day, because December 6 is a public holiday for the Ramzan festival celebrations.

Jyoti Swaroop, Regional Manager, Scholastic India (Pvt) Ltd., has written to school principals, headmasters and teachers saying, "Could you get the whole school right from yourself, your students, staff and all workers to bring reading material to school? At the stroke of 12 noon on December 5, you all drop everything and read silently for 2003 seconds (33.38 minutes).''

In the message to educators there is a New Year wish too, one which should please the hearts of readers everywhere. It goes as follows: "We do hope that we can all start the New Year with books, and not just with the TV!''

Besides, there is an invitation to schools to send in a brief report along with comments, on the experiences during the event. "For one thing, you will find the silence in your school awe inspiring!'' is the pleasant prediction.

"We wish that not only schools all over, but everyone, whatever their academic level, would join us in our venture to read for 2003 seconds. Hoping the year 2003 would focus on more reading, more vocal development and more creative thinking,'' says Hemalatha, Senior Educational Coordinator, Scholastic India, Coimbatore.

Drop everything and read

"The reading programme could include a book review for the higher classes or a story-telling session for the tiny tots. It could even be just reading. Everyone reads, right from the peon, watchman, maids, students and teachers, to principals. A total of 2003 seconds devoted to mind nourishment,'' she adds.

It should not be surprising that "Read for 2003'' is being called the "world's largest classroom reading event''.

Some schools have put up posters in the classrooms, saying proudly, "our class is reading for 2003.'' Appropriately enough, the logo sports the words, "one world reading together.''

To make the special occasion a memorable one, there is also the "reading pledge'', written by author Paula Danziger. It says, "I pledge to have respect for myself, for others and for the power of books. I am proud and excited to be part of the community of `Read for 2003'. I will make books a part of my life. I will read them to grow.''

There is some more to the pledge: "I will read books to learn more about myself and about other people. I will share the things that I learn from books, with others. I pledge to be a reader now and forever.''

Books have more relevance to our daily lives, at the present time than at any other time in human history.

For books are mainly ideas, and it is ideas that change the world, and keep it constantly growing, constantly striving towards betterment in every sphere.

History tells us that even tyrants and dictators trembled before the power of books. For books awakened sleeping minds and unleashed the collective power of creative thinking. Books not only answered the question "Why?", but also stirred people into thinking "Why not''.

Powerful passages that keen minds have written, have become the common property of humankind, and have lived on for generations, to inspire, to provoke, to encourage, to stimulate, and of course, to question.

Even books that have been banned and burnt, have risen phoenix-like from the ashes, unseated their would-be destroyers, and then recorded in detail, how the mighty had tumbled down from their thrones. Happy reading!

By Michael Raj A. A.

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