By Daniele Berman, Community Partnerships Manager
“Raise your hand if you love pizza. Okay, hands down. Now raise your hand if you love ice cream. Hands down. Is it possible to be a person who loves pizza and ice cream? If you’re a person who loves pizza but not ice cream, can you still be friends with someone who loves ice cream but not pizza?”
All over Durham yesterday, kindergartners and first graders wrestled with questions like these after participating in Read for the Record 2017, the world’s largest shared reading experience. This year’s campaign book was Quackers, by Liz Wong, a delightful story about a kitten who grows up believing he’s a duck, until the day he meets another kitten. What follows is a sweet tale about understanding, acceptance, and learning it’s okay to be whoever you want to be.
Like a pizza-lover who doesn’t like ice cream, for example, who is best friends with an ice cream-lover. Or a classmate who likes to play outside but still loves her friend who prefers staying inside. As it turns out (spoiler alert!), Quackers the-cat-who-thinks-he’s-a-duck likes spending time with his newfound cat friends at the barn, chasing mice and drinking milk, and he likes spending time with his old duck friends, cuddling under their feathery wings and even—gasp!—enjoying a bit of duckweed. (Durham kindergartners and first graders are universally opposed to eating duckweed, however.)
Yesterday, 526 people in Durham joined over two million all over the country who read Quackers together. Here in Durham, those readers were at Burton, Hope Valley, Forest View, and Glenn elementary schools, Durham Technical Community College, and homes all over the city. Among the readers visiting schools were City Council members Charlie Reece, Jillian Johnson, and Don Moffitt, as well as Book Harvest staff and volunteers. And the fun didn’t stop with the reading! In addition to conversations about “serious” topics like interspecies cat-duck friendships, students took the story in all different directions. At one school, a first grader answered a friend’s question about duckweed by sharing all that he knows about the plant, and at recess immediately following, a game of duck-duck-cat broke out on the playground. At another school, the students enjoyed hearing Quackers in both English and Spanish and laughed every time Quackers was identified as un pato.
While the story may be silly—and at least one first grade class clearly identified it as fiction—the message isn’t. At Book Harvest, we loved having the opportunity to bring so many of Durham’s future leaders into the conversations happening all over the country about what it means to “fit in” and how being comfortable with yourself and who you are is the most important thing, not what your friends look like, what they like to eat, or how they like to play. We also loved partnering with Jumpstart for the second year in a row to highlight the importance of building early literacy and language skills for every child, so that all children have the opportunity to enter kindergarten prepared to succeed. And of course, we loved adding copies of Quackers and Cuacuà to the shelf of every classroom we visited as well as giving copies to all of our Book Babies families on yesterday’s home visits!
Many thanks to our school hosts, our City Council readers, and a generous donor who made it possible for us to give away so many copies of Quackers and Cuacuà yesterday. While we anxiously await news from Jumpstart of the grand total number of readers across the United States yesterday—stay tuned for that announcement just as soon as we get it!—we’re also already counting down to Read for the Record 2018!
If you didn’t get to read with us yesterday, you can read full-text copies Quackers and Cuacuà online! We hope you enjoy the book as much as our readers did yesterday—check out some of the highlights in the photos and videos below!