Speed-reading Dr. Seuss for charity in Philadelphia

First Book Philadelphia, a non-profit that distributes children’s books through schools and other organizations, held its first “speed read” fundraiser last night. Ten people—including journalists, radio personalities, librarians and others—competed to see who could get through Dr. Seuss’s “Fox in Socks” in record time.

First Book Philadelphia, a non-profit that distributes children’s books through schools and other organizations, held its first “speed read” fundraiser last night.  

Ten people—including journalists, radio personalities, librarians and others—competed to see who could get through Dr. Seuss’s “Fox in Socks” in record time. They tackled the tongue-twisters in “Fox in Socks.”  Along the way they raised $10,000.

Carolyn Ashburn is chair of First Book Philadelphia. “This is going to be new for us, and we’ll have to see how it goes,” said Ashburn. “You know, Dr. Seuss has a quote, ‘From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere,’ so I kinda think that’s what people are going to see tonight, because we’ve never done this before.”

The 10 contestants included local radio hosts, the president of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the executive director of the Philadelphia Film Office.  Before taking her turn, Daily News reporter Barbara Laker said Dr. Seuss was no small challenge. “I did read it, and then even like re-reading it I was still messing up, and I thought well maybe I should try to memorize it, but it’s a book that’s impossible to memorize,” said Laker. “If I mess up, I’ll just go right through it and hope maybe people will laugh at me.”

Judges numbered the lines of the text to listen intently for mistakes over the course of three rounds. Tim Whitaker, executive director of the not-for-profit Mighty Writers, was listening for accuracy. “I think I’ll be looking for the writers that articulate very clearly even though they are speaking quickly, that they don’t slur it all together,” he said.

Kathy O’Connell, host of WXPN’s “Kids Corner,” and Alice Ozma, author of “The Reading Promise,” destroyed the competition. They will have 50 books donated in their honor. First Book Philadelphia donated 25,000 books in 2010 and hopes to donate 40,000 books this year.

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