Schools attempt to break record for reading aloud

Thursday, December 14, 2006
First-graders at Franklin Elementary School took a break on the playground with principal Rhonda Dunham to read a passage from "Charlotte's Web" on Wednesday. (Fred Lynch)

They read in the hall. They read in the cafeteria. They read on the playground.

Nearly 200 students -- kindergartners to fourth-graders -- at Franklin Elementary School in Cape Girardeau read aloud a two-page passage Wednesday from the children's book "Charlotte's Web."

Copies were distributed to all of the students.

Across town at Alma Schrader Elementary School, about 100 students in four classrooms read the same passage at the same time.

The children were among nearly 548,000 readers in public and private schools nationwide and in 27 other countries who signed up to break the world record for "most people reading aloud simultaneously."

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the current verified record dates to March 19, 2004, when 155,528 students from 737 schools in the United Kingdom read a poem titled "Daffodils."

Wednesday's reading began at 11 a.m. Central time.

Out on the playground, first-graders stood in three lines facing principal Rhonda Dunham and read the paragraphs.

"Good job. Give yourself a hand," she said after she and the students finished the reading.

Prior to the reading, Dunham busily sought to see that teachers and students were ready.

"We are just really excited about this," she said. "I think this is a unique way to get people interested in reading."

Dunham said the publisher of "Charlotte's Web," Walden Media, organized the world-record effort.

She said the school has to send in some paperwork to document that Franklin Elementary School students participated in the reading. That documentation then will be mailed to the publisher.

Schools must submit those documents by Jan. 3. According to Walden Media, it could take four to six weeks to review the documentation and determine whether a new reading record was set.

Dunham said her school would have had more readers if so many students hadn't been sick. About 40 students out of an enrollment of 225 were absent Wednesday due to illness, she said.

For some 40 first-graders, the reading took away from recess. But the students didn't seem to mind. Most said they liked reading aloud on the playground.

Dawanda Green said it was worth missing part of recess.

Masyn McWilliams said the reading went so fast it was hard to keep up. She said she likes reading and singing. "I do both at the same time," she said with a smile.

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