Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) is the time in school where virtually everyone, including the principal, teachers, and students pick up their books and begin to read for a designated amount of time. In theory, this sounds like such a good idea, until you notice that for some, D.E.A.R. stands for Don’t Even Attempt to Read.
For struggling readers, fifteen minutes or longer to sit with a book can be torturous. During D.E.A.R. Time, the books have been used as shields to cover up conversations with their friends, hide food that was not eaten during lunchtime, block bubbles while chewing gum, and dim the bright lights to snooze. Books have been “read” upside down, sideways, and in ways that show creativity and ingenuity. Children who struggle to read do not like to read, and seeing their classmates and teacher reading will not motivate them to read. Learning how to read comfortably, without stopping and rereading lines of text while piecing together meaning, is motivating.
Add up time wasted for the children who are not reading during D.E.A.R. Time and you will see that at least one day per month is lost! Precious minutes in school can be used in so many other ways. Why not have these children read an audiobook to increase vocabulary and build knowledge? What about having time to practice their fluency with decodable books they can actually read? How about the teacher reading aloud from a book that would be above grade level to build comprehension strategies through modeling and questioning?
The children who can read will be very happy to have time to chill out with books and read, and the children who cannot read won’t. It is the Matthew Effect whereby the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. A child who loves to read will always find time to delve into wonderful books and get lost in the pleasure of a good story. When it is easy to lift the words off the page, and a story can be like a movie in one’s mind, it is true bliss. These children are able to build their vocabularies through reading, and they are gaining practice in utilizing comprehension strategies. But for the children who find reading difficult, looking at a book can be as pleasurable as getting root canal at the dentist. It is even painful to watch these children. And for each minute of “pretend” reading, struggling readers fall further and further behind their peers.
It is time that we take a hard look and realize that nobody is fooled by children holding a book upright in front of their faces. E-readers lose their novelty pretty quickly, too. It might seem like a better choice, but the Kindles and other devices cannot hold the attention of a non-reader. With all the paperwork teachers have today, I would not be surprised if they are using D.E.A.R. Time for Doing their planning, Essay grading, Attendance, and Recordkeeping.
Faith Borkowsky, Owner and Lead Educational Consultant of High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching, is a Certified Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner, is Orton-Gillingham trained, and has extensive training and experience in a number of other research-based, peer-reviewed programs that have produced positive gains for students with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, and a host of learning difficulties. Her book, Reading Intervention Behind School Walls: Why Your Child Continues to Struggle, is available on Amazon. See information on her book and an interview with Ms. Borkowsky: https://highfiveliteracy.com/book/