From Belarus to Brooklyn, the world’s students, teachers, and librarians marked the fourth annual World Read Aloud Day on Wednesday with a diversity of celebrations and special events. The special day was created by Pam Allyn and Lit World, a nonprofit organization she founded that encourages a global celebration of the invaluable practice of reading aloud.
Allyn kicked off the international celebration in a blustery New York City atop of a double-decker GrayLine bus that visited an elementary and middle school in the Harlem. She was joined on the road by Kwame Alexander, author of the Acoustic Rooster (Sleeping Bear, 2011); the Story Pirates, an educational theater group; and Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Later in the day, author Tim Federle appeared to talk about his debut book Better Nate Than Ever (S & S, 2013) about a teen trying to break into the world of New York theater. The group was greeted by cheering children that climbed aboard the second story of the bus for a reading and a schmooze with Clifford.
Technology played an important role for World Read Aloud Day for Matthew C. Winner, media specialist at Longfellow Elementary School in Columbia, MD. He along with others established connections for WRAD via a GoogleDoc and, through promotion through blogs and Twitter, this online document now hosts more than 70 educators who coordinated their WRAD Skype schedules.
John Schumacher, librarian at Brook Forest Elementary School, Oak Brook, IL, hosted Skype sessions with several authors including Newbery Award winner, Katherine Applegate. Both he and Ernie Cox, media specialist at the Prairie Creek Intermediate School in Cedar Rapids, IA, hosted Joanne Levy, author of Small Medium at Large (Bloomsbury, 2012). To make the author feel more welcome, Cox decorated the podium on which the laptop sat with Levy bookmarks and book covers, creating a virtual shrine for the author’s Skype visit.
“Reading aloud brings character voices to life,” Cox told School Library Journal, noting that having an author visit, even virtually, brings character voices out in a way no one else can.
In Georgia, Kathy Schmidt, media specialist at Rock Springs Elementary in Lawrenceville, GA connected her students with students in Falmouth, ME; Truro, MA; and Van Meter, IA. They read aloud to each other from their favorite books. In a similar student-to-student reading, Matthew Winner used technology. His students connected with their peers in 11 different states using ebooks available on WeGiveBooks.org, a project funded by Penguin Young Readers in which schools in need receive books from the publisher based on the number of times the ebooks are accessed.
Winner tells his teachers and students, “just imagine the number of books we’re donating to schools in need just by reading for WRAD!”
Public libraries also joined in the celebration. In Wentzville, MO, kids celebrated the joys of reading aloud with a story every hour for 12 hours. Amy Koester, children’s librarian at the Corporate Parkway Branch of the St. Charles City-County Library District, coordinated the twelve books for the day, ranging from preschool picture books and preschool nonfiction in the morning to picture books, poetry, and nonfiction that will appeal to school-age kids during the afternoon and evening readings. All who participated in one of the WRAD readings will add their names to the library’s “reading wall” in its foyer, making a visual proclamation of how much they value reading at the library, Koester told SLJ.
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Melanie Hope Greenburg was Skyping with a school in Belarus, talking about that universal mythical creature, the mermaid. Greenburg’s 2008 book, Mermaids on Parade (Putnam) tells about the annual mermaid parade held in Coney Island. She made the Belarus through Facebook and said she was happy to do so because some of her ancestors came from the region.
Authors also connected with readers face to face to celebrate the day. Roxie Munro, who was recently nominated for the first Cook Prize for her Busy Builders (Marshall Cavendish, 2012), visited the children at Bellevue hospital to real aloud to the patients.
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