"The event lasts only one hour, from noon to 1 p.m. Buses start to arrive at about 11:50, unloading masses of children ready to march. Drummers begin playing their cadences as the first feet hit the ground, and teachers and classes fall into step. After all the buses have unloaded their precious cargo, the front and back of the courthouse are filled with lines of students holding signs and chanting READ TO ME! At about 12:10 the students line up on the courthouse steps, overflowing onto the sidewalks and sitting closely together, waiting for the guest author to greet them.
I take the opportunity to welcome each school. The response is loud cheering from the students representing each campus. Next, I ask the group three questions: What do we do for FUN? What do we do to LEARN? What do we say to everyone here today? Answers are READ! READ! and READ TO ME!
And the READING begins! The teachers take their classes to a reading site, marked by a smiley face stake and the older students are ready with a Big Book and story props. Classes move from site to site, and readers repeat their stories to each new group. Water and snacks are passed around as the children sit and listen to stories. Buses arrive at 1 p.m. and as the last child reaches the bus step, all is quiet and the stories fade into the sunlight.
So, in an hour’s time, in the hot Texas sun, what do we accomplish?
Middle school and high school readers had spent hours preparing their story. I had visited with each group to explain the skills of reading to children and as they chose their Big Books, they eagerly made plans for their presentations.
Classroom teachers had the opportunity to meet an author, having received a copy of his book or CD a month before the event to acquaint the children with his or her work.
Students were given a voice. They experienced the excitement and hype of reading normally only present at sports events.
School librarians felt they had an advocate in the public library to connect with the work they do day-by-day in the schools.
Our focus is on reading; reading together and sharing the fun."