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>And what will she be reading?

>As has been noted widely, today is Beverly Cleary’s ninetieth birthday, and, not coincidentally, the first annual Drop Everything and Read Day, inspired by an episode in Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8:

“No book reports on your Sustained Silent Reading books,” Mrs. Whaley promised the class. Then she went on, “I don’t think Sustained Silent Reading sounds very interesting, so I think we will call it something else.” Here she printed four big letters on the blackboard, and as she pointed she read out, “D. E. A. R. Can anyone guess what these letters stand for?”

I like the sentiment–how could you not?–but a visit to the D.E.A.R. website has me spitting tacks with its endless frantic iterations to “celebrate reading together!”:

Drop everything and read–literally! Have your special guest readers put down the tools of their trade–a doctor lays down her stethoscope, a chef his apron and spoon, a coach her ball and whistle–and pick up a book. Or go for the dramatic entrance,such as firefighters arriving in a fire truck and rushing in to drop everything and read!

I thought the whole point of D.E.A.R. was to give people some quiet time, alone, with a book, not to occasion flamboyant displays of emergency workers leaving their tasks for a little show-and-tell. Tell it to the marines.

Ramona, as usual, has the right idea: “Ramona decided that she preferred Sustained Silent Reading to DEAR because it sounded more grown-up. When time came for everyone to Drop Everything and Read, she sat quietly doing her Sustained Silent Reading.” You go, girl. And you too, Mrs. Cleary.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Maybe they should rename it “D.E.A.D.” I mean, imagine: there you are, in the middle of your cardiac stress test when the technician drops everything and beging reading The DaVinci Code. Or you get in a car accident, and instead of giving you CPR, the EMTs all whip out Harry Potter books and begin reading them aloud to you. (Which, in many cases, would cause the victim to rush faster towards the light instead of away from it.)

    The only way this could possibly be a good thing is if Bush and Cheney and the rest of the White House cabal dropped everything for one day and read a book instead. But the book would probably be World Domination for Dummies. So maybe “Drop Everything And Run” would be more appropriate.

  2. >Wonderful point. You go, Roger, too!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    >As I recall, Ramona smartly uses Sustained Silent Reading as an excuse to get out of playing with Willa Jean, too.

    This is a big day in my life, as someone who worships the work of Ms. Cleary. Has there been an author of middle grade fiction to touch her?

    I now wax sentimental about the writings of Ms. Cleary: About 10 years ago, I took an aerobics class with a big hole in my tights that I had sewn up beforehand. The moment the class started, the hole of course split open again, and I spent the whole hour trying to yank up my tights (so the hole wouldn’t show) everytime we had a move that brought my left hand anywhere near my leg. All I could think of was Ellen Tebbits with her long underwear rolled down around her stomach in ballet class. Her movment was “Jump–clutch! Jump–clutch!”

    And I was really taken with Emily of Emily’s Run Away imagination starting the town library. I remember how she dreamed of getting to read Black Beauty, and being disappointed in it when she finally did.

    In my family, we joked for years that my sister only read one “chapter book” in her entire life, and that was The Mouse on the Motorcycle. (That joke was pretty darn accurate, so talk about a book that could draw in the most reluctant of readers.)

    But for some reason the Cleary moment I think of most often is Willa Jean forcing Howie and Ramona to play “Oh Missie Missie Mouse will you marry me?” Ramona gets so bored with the game that she starts answering things like “See if I care” and “Ok, but you’ll be sorry.”

  4. rindawriter says:

    >Sustained Silent Reading for me too! Yay, hurray, for Mrs. Cleary!!! Triple hurrays!

    I like to re-read Ellen Tebbits partiuclarly because my family lived for a while (in later years) in Yamhill, Oregon, where Ms. Cleary’s early years were spent; it was a model for the town in the Ellen book. The store building, the building where the library was, and Ms. Cleary’s childhood home are all still there, even a certain, little, white church with a basement where my father pastored and where I was married (where else could I have gotten married for $200?)! And the town is much the same still, a small, one-street, sleepy, little, Oregon town….except this one now has a celebrity–Mrs. Cleary!

  5. Roger Sutton says:

    >Webshred, “Drop Everything and Run” is hilarious. Maybe we should all collaborate on a chapter book about nice librarian Miss Laura and her rollicking, obstreperous “Guys Read” club, with members Dick, Rummy and their boyish cousin George.

    I reread a couple of Ramona books this week (they’re just being republished by HarperCollins with uniform illustrations by Tracy Dockray) and was impressed by the intensity of identification they evoke from the reader for Ramona. I was slightly uncomfortably aware that I am now older than Mr. and Mrs. Quimby could realistically be, yet I was completely on Ramona’s side the whole time. The Quimbys were my parents, too.

  6. rindambyers says:

    >OOps! Sorry,sorry all, blogging too late at night, again, and the dyslexia kicks in. I meant Emily of the Runaway Imagination not Ellen! Her town is the one modeled from Yamhill, where Mrs. Cleary grew up. I LOVE Mrs. Cleary biographical work as well.

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >Book Two: Initiating Scooter.

  8. Charlotte's Mom says:

    >As I new mom, I could use some Sustained Silent Reading! After reading your post and all the comments, I’m ready to run to the library and re-read Cleary. Last time I read her was to write a paper on Ramona in grad school. Boy, did I make grad school fun!

    And, Mr. Sutton, I love your “Guys Read club” book idea, but I’m afraid it would quickly be a banned book!

  9. rindambyers says:

    >Aww…don’t ban the Guys Read Club book on the blog just yet…I was speculating last night on what that nice librarian might turn into by chapter five? And WHAT were they reading?

  10. >I used to live for DEAR and SSR when I was in school. The school where I teach dropped it a few years ago due to scheduling. I think next year I will add it into my Literacy Block.

    When I was a kid Ramona was my best friend. When I taught third grade I often recommended her to my students, read Mouse and the Motorcycle aloud, and read a chapter from Henry & Beezus (Ribsy & the Roast) as part of the curriculum. What child can’t learn from dear old Ramona?

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