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Family Fun: Put a DEAR Day celebration on the books

Monday is Drop Everything and Read – or DEAR – Day.

Just like the name says, it’s a day to read. It was inspired by Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona Quimby, Age 8,” and April 12 was picked because it’s Cleary’s birthday.

In the book, Ramona’s third-grade teacher introduces the concept of “silent sustained reading,” then asks the students to figure out what DEAR might be an acronym for.

It takes them a few guesses, but Ramona is thrilled at the idea of time set aside just for reading – especially because there’s no book report involved, so she can pick a book that challenges her.

Sumi Shadduck, a youth services librarian at Spokane Public Library, understands the allure of reading time. In high school, she had weekly USSR – uninterrupted sustained silent reading – in a couple of her English classes.

“I loved that time,” she said. “I loved that I had a time where I was supposed to be reading – it wasn’t something I was doing instead of something else.”

There are so many things to do in a day, Shadduck said: work, school, television, phone, chores. Even though as a librarian she reads for work, she struggles to make time to read for pleasure.

DEAR Day is “a good reminder to me that I need to make time to read. It’s important to me, and I enjoy it, and I need to prioritize it,” she said. “I need to put a big calendar reminder on the 12th to drop everything and read for a bit.”

Spokane Public Library will be hosting a virtual DEAR Day event at 4 p.m. Monday. Register by 4 p.m. Sunday.

For families, DEAR Day can help encourage a tradition of reading together, Shadduck said. “There’s bonding time, and you can have a good laugh.”

She recommends picture books for all ages. Authors and illustrators put stuff in there for adults and older kids, too, she said. Plus, they won’t take that long to read together.

And, while some are just silly and fun, others “can open up big conversations about things like values or ethics or difference.”

It also might be a good day to start one of Cleary’s books. “She knew about being a kid,” Shadduck said. Cleary told stories of kids just playing and doing kid stuff.

Cleary, who died on March 25 at age 104, also captured funny things, like when Ramona hears people talking about the PTA and assumes they’re trying to hide something from her because they always spell things when it’s something good, like cookies, Shadduck said.

“Delightful is the word that comes to mind when I think of her and how beloved she was,” Shadduck said.

If you want to add to the festivities, you could make a cake in honor of Cleary’s birthday to enjoy after reading.

But, Shadduck said, “I feel like the best way to honor her is to read.”

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