USAO Celebrates National D.E.A.R. Day
Eating worms and dog biscuits may not sound appealing, but it’s just one way that the University of Science and Arts is celebrating Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.) Day. On April 12, the Education Division invites both children and adults to take part in a Read-Aloud and Taste of Books Hour from 12:30-1:30 in Gary Hall.
Dr. Jeanne Mather, the department’s most notorious children’s book enthusiast, is heading up the D.E.A.R. Day event. “It’s our first time ever, and it’s an adventure,” she said. “As we get ready for our event, we feel the excitement and hear people talking about great books they read as kids.”
Mather is an associate professor of education and has been teaching for 16 years at USAO.
Although no real worms will be eaten, several book-themed foods will be served at the public event. In this case, gummy worms will act as hors d’ouevres in honor of the book, “How to Eat Fried Worms” by Thomas Rockwell. And Mather assures event-goers that only “people” dog biscuits will be served.
Throughout the celebration, students and faculty will present live readings of popular children’s books. In addition, a special display highlights several books on the suggested reading list for the day, as well as information about D.E.A.R. Day.
Among other things, D.E.A.R. Day encourages families to emphasize that reading is more than just a school activity. Events taking place nationwide in schools, libraries and other public places are designed to give children of all ages special opportunities to get involved with reading.
This year’s D.E.A.R. Day coincides with the 90th birthday of award-winning children’s author Beverly Cleary. One of her most popular characters, Ramona Quimby, serves as the official spokesperson for the day.
Celebrating books is nothing new for Mather, whose 10-year involvement in the Books for Tots charity has led to the distribution of more than 30,000 new and used books to needy and foster children across the state. The program currently donates books to 10 Oklahoma counties, as well as a middle school in Alabama damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
“When I was little,” said Mather, “we didn’t have books in the home, and I know how excited I got just getting to read a book, let alone ever having one.”
Each year, the book distribution program requires a year’s worth of collecting book and monetary donations, as well as an army of volunteers. Led by Mather, USAO students and faculty join community members, businesses and churches in December in the drive to place books in the hands of children.
The Student National Education Association and Kappa Delta Pi education honor society also partner each year to help make the book distribution possible. Every year, Books for Tots receives letters of thanks from such organizations as the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Washita Valley Community Action Council and even local schools.
Chickasha’s Grand Avenue Elementary School counselor Paula Glaze expressed her thanks for the more than 200 students at her school who received books last year. “I appreciate all the time and effort that is taken in buying, collecting and distributing these books,” she said. “It is a worthwhile endeavor that means so much to our school and our community as well.”
To Mather, the act of giving is an opportunity itself. “I am a firm believer in giving back, and giving others the opportunity to do so, too,” she said. “I truly believe that books open minds, hearts, souls and dreams. They challenge us, comfort us and entertain us.”
The D.E.A.R. Day celebration is free and open to the public. More information about D.E.A.R. Day is available online at dropeverythingandread.com.
Donations of both money and books are being accepted year-round for distribution. Checks made out to “Books for Tots” can be mailed to Mather at the USAO Education Department, 1727 W. Alabama, Oklahoma 73018. New and used books also can be mailed to the same address or dropped off in USAO’s Business Office in Troutt Hall or Gary Hall 206.