Wendy Cohen reads to fifth graders at LeConte Elementary School. Photos: Frances Dinkelspiel.

Students in Berkeley schools dropped all their work this morning to stop… and listen to a community member read.

It was all part of the district’s 18th annual DEAR day, which stands for “Drop Everything And Read.”

LeConte Elementary School was eerily quiet between 9:30 and 10 am as students gathered on area rugs and listened to stories. City Councilman Kriss Worthington read to a third-grade class. Wendy Cohen, Berkeleyside’s Advertising Director, read to a fifth grade class.

“The idea is you are in the middle of a lesson and you stop suddenly, to read,” said Luis Argueta, a fifth-grade teacher.

“It’s such a great community builder and it’s so much fun,” said Estella Sisneros, the librarian at LeConte. “It’s energizing for the children to have people come out a read to them. They get to hear different voices.”

More than 140 community volunteers read to students in Berkeley’s preschools and elementary schools.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington reads to third graders at LeConte Elementary School today.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...