ETHS works to reinstall Drop Everything and Read

After returning from a year of e-learning, ETHS has been introducing programs both old and new in order to maximize students’ academic opportunities and enjoyment. One such initiative is Drop Everything And Read, more commonly known as DEAR.

The program stems from a national celebration of the same name intended to remind people of the importance of reading. It was started by Beverly Cleary, author of Beezus and Ramona, and has grown to be celebrated at libraries, bookstores and schools, encouraging people to put aside distractions and enjoy reading.

DEAR has long been a part of the ETHS curriculum. In previous years, before the COVID-19 pandemic, DEAR took place once a month with what was known as the “C-Day Schedule,” in which third period gained an extra 23 minutes to accommodate certain activities. At the start of third period, an announcement would blare over the loudspeaker reminding students to “drop everything and read!” For most students, this was a semi-successful activity.

“I [always] participated in DEAR, because I [always] had a book on me, but the thing is, no one knew when the heck DEAR was,” senior Avamarie Via said. “So no one had a book and half of them were on their phone, obviously.”

This school year, however, DEAR has taken on a new form. Teachers are encouraged to allot one class per month to give their students time to read independently, without the encouragement of a school-wide announcement or even a specific day dedicated to DEAR.

Without any strict guidelines, teachers have chosen to implement DEAR into their classrooms in many different ways. English teacher Mara Neill said that she gives her students independent reading time every Monday, utilizing the time for DEAR participation as a good learning experience. In terms of what exactly her students are allowed to read during this time, her only requirement is that it is on paper. 

“That is partially just for my own observation. I can’t see everyone’s computer screens to know that they’re reading something and not playing a video game,” Neill said. “There are [also] a lot of studies that indicate that reading on a screen versus reading on paper activates different parts of your brain. And if you don’t practice both, you’re going to fatigue.”

However, history and AP psychology teacher Matthew Walsh has a somewhat different stance on DEAR. 

“I offer some examples of things that I found for students to read. But I also just say, ‘Hey, if you want to find some stuff to read, read it.’ It should take about 20 to 25 minutes, and I just want to know what you read. And so I ask for a little summary and what they thought about what they read at the end. [But] it’s not really about the writing. It’s about the reading,” Walsh said.

Despite any differences in style, it is agreed that reading is essential for growing minds and that DEAR can be a helpful tool in fostering the habit in students. 

“The more students read, the better they do in literacy, but also in math and in science, because no matter what you’re reading, if you keep reading, you are modeling or practicing the skills of rereading, of checking yourself and of making sure you understand, which helps in all classes,” Neill said.