With October comes Dyslexia Awareness Month and one teacher is truly going the distance! On October 1, Hannah Holt attempted to set a world record for running the fastest marathon while dressed as a book. Holt, a children’s book author and teacher at Edison High School in Portland, Oregon, combined her passions for running and reading education in an effort to highlight Dyslexia Awareness Month, which began the day of the race.
In addition to bringing attention to Dyslexia, which impacts one in five children, Holt also hopes to earn a spot with Guinness World Records. She ran all 26.2 miles of the St. George Marathon, dressed in a full-body cardboard, vinyl, and cotton reproduction of a picture book. She will don a replica of A History of Underwear with Professor Chicken, a book she wrote herself. Another of Holt’s books, A Father’s Love, was selected by Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, an international program that mails over one million books every month. While official approval from Guinness takes several weeks, Holt finished her race in 5:12:48 which should be enough to set the record.
The day before the marathon, Holt teamed up with Reading for Life Southern Utah for a public story time and meet and greet. On Saturday, October 1, Holt suited up and headed out, she shared “It was like wearing a sleeping bag in 70 degree weather.” Other than managing the heat, she loved the experience. Holt continued, "The spectators and runners were so supportive, yelling, ‘Go, book lady!’ Along the way, I had the opportunity to chat with people about dyslexia: two women are now planning to have their children tested for dyslexia, and many runners shared their own experiences or the experiences of their children.”
The entire idea was inspired by the experience of dyslexic children, “learning to read is like running a marathon for a dyslexic child, and a lot of people, even some teachers, and legislators, don’t understand that. We look to high schools for improving graduation rates and not the fact that eighty-eight percent of dropouts were struggling readers in third grade. In marathon running, we have a saying, ‘Drink before you’re thirsty. By the time you’re thirsty, it’s too late.’ My personal experience navigating the special education system in Oregon is that schools wait until your child is almost completely dehydrated educationally before offering services. The system focuses on picking up the kids who collapse rather than preventing them from becoming weak in the first place. If I
could tell the parent of a dyslexic child one thing it would be, ‘Don’t wait to seek out help for your struggling reader.’”
Hannah Holt lives in Oregon with her four children—two with dyslexia. She writes books for children and teaches at Edison High School, a high school dedicated to students with learning differences.
You can read more about Holt's story in the Portland Tribune.