As a late-winter storm blustered into the area Wednesday afternoon, town officials gathered at the Fairfield Public Library for an important mission.
But this was no storm command center. Instead, it was a high-level operation to promote literacy by reading out loud to local children.
World Read Aloud Day, founded by non-profit literacy organization Lit World, was marked by the main branch of the Fairfield Public Library with guest readers including Police Chief Gary McNamara, Assistant Fire Chief Chris Lyddy, Superintendent of Schools David Title and Deputy Town Librarian Nancy Coriarty. With guidance from Mary Sorhus, head of children's services at the library, each "celebrity" reader presented a favorite story to a gathering of some two dozen parents and their children.
Lit World, according to its website, fosters resilience, hope and joy through the power of stories. The day is marked by reading aloud, giving away a book or other acts to "Read It Forward" on behalf of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who cannot read. The group takes the position that the right to read and write is basic for all people.
The first year the World Read Aloud Day was observed, it reached 35 nations with about 40,000 participants, according to participants. Last year, Read Aloud Day was marked in 65 nations by hundreds of thousands of people.
"Fairfield Library is proud to support the effort and carry forward the organization's mission and message," said Sorhus. Regarding the guest readers, she added, "We wanted to have at least one library representative outside the children's area, a representative from the public schools as they represent literacy every day and civil services as they're fun and outside the education system."
McNamara said he was happy to hit the books for the kids. "I was excited to be asked to do this," the chief said. "Any time we get to interact with kids is fun, and encouraging reading is important."
Recalling favorite stories from his childhood, McNamara cited "Harry the Dirty Dog" as a favorite, but added that he values reading more now than ever. "It's more than just reading a bunch of words," he said. "Reading can be entertaining, educational and informative. We read a lot of stuff every day, but reading to kids is fun."
Coriarty shared the same view as McNamara. "I used to be a children's librarian and enjoyed reading stories to children all the time," she said.
Sorhus summed up the power that reading can realize: "Words can change the world and we're doing it one story at a time," she said.