Confessions of a Former World Record Holder

Home of the Oilers. the Tower still stands.

Home of the Oilers. the Tower still stands.

t was The Bicentennial Year: 1976 (and all that entails)! The Country was turning 200! Our school, Huntington Beach High School was turning 70! We were graduating! And we wanted to leave our mark on the world! What better way that to set a world recorded! Recorded for all eternity in THE Guinness Book of World Records!  

And so the launch to find a record to break began. As this was one of those last minute Brilliant Ideas, there were limitations to our record-breaking abilities. Any record we broke had to be:

  1. Easy
  2. Cheap
  3. Fast (It was the next-to-the-last, if not the last day of school)
This is not us, but this is what we did.

This is not us, but this is what we did.

We had one thing going for us: Bodies! Our graduating class of more than 1500, was one of the largest, if not the largest, in HBHS history.

It took some doing, but someone (s), somehow came up with a record to break: Lap Sitting

Then came the question: How exactly are we supposed to achieve this Group Lap Sit?

I haven't thought about that day for well, pert near 2 score years (2 score is so much less painful than the alternatives). And if not for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record®  campaign featuring Not Norman, I probably wouldn't be confessing now. (BTW: If you haven’t signed up to read Not Norman on 10-22 please do. Everyone can. All you need to do is gather a group of folks to read to and register. Click over to www.readfortherecord.org for all the info.)

That day was hot, hot, HOT! (A rare occurrence in Huntington Beach, California, even in June). I remember me and my girlfriends—Valerie, Michelle, Theresa, Cathy, Lori, Myrna, —glossed up for the occasion (Bonnie Bell “Lip Smackers”) in hopes TV News camera really did come out for the event, and hope of hopes, snapped a photo of us!!!

In an effort to look like Farrah, I’d permed my hair. (We all wanted to look like Farrah…or Kate or Jaclyn, the other of Charlie’s Angels) Big mistake—judging from photos through the years, just the first of too many “hair disasters”—so instead looked more like Barbara.

Everyone gathered on the track to break the Lap-Sitting record.

The P.E. Coaches, whistles drawn, corralled us into one single file line winding around the track.Then came the question: How exactly are we supposed to achieve this Group Lap Sit?  (Remember this is way before the Internet; there were no How-To videos to Google)

What I recall were many hilarious starts to the Lap Sit which definitely resulted in sever leg muscle strain. In these early attempts “Starting Sitters” (I’ll call them, for lack of a better term) would hunker down then a classmate would sit on his/her lap. Another classmate would sit on that persons’ lap, and another on that persons, one-by-one-by one back up and sit.

By the time the 3rd person sat, the “Starting Sitters” legs were trembling. By the time the 4th or 5th person sat, the “Starter Sitter” would collapse and the “chair” would come tumbling down…Tumbling Tumbling

And in the midst of our “serious efforts” some boy would “just happen”  to sneak into line behind one of us so we ended up sitting—Cue the Squeal track—his lap!

Finally, someone devised a plan:  In all seriousness, we circled the track single file, spaced ourselves lap-distance apart (several test-sits were required to make sure each of us had the spacing correct, of course). Then, on the signal, with complete confidence and trust in the person behind us, we all sat down thus setting the 1976 world record for Lap Sitting!

Don't bother looking in the '76 edition. We're not in it. (I have a vague recollection that a day or so after we set the record, another group in Japan broke it. Still, for one brief shining moment, We were the champions, my friends! 

Confesstions of a World Record Holder Playlist:

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10-22-2015 WHO'S READING FOR THE RECORD? NOT NORMAN!

You know the song from Guys and Dolls, the one Sister Sarah sings after she loses the bet against Sky Masterson and pays up by going with him to Havana? Cue the music: Ask me how to I feel . . . Well, Sir, all I can say is if I were a gate I'd be swing-ing!/And if I were a watch I'd start/ popping my springs!/Or if I were a bell I'd go ding dong, ding dong ding! 

Add to that, If I were a fish I’d be flip-ping! Because that’s how I’ve been feeling since I heard the big news—Like that swing-ing gate, that spring-popping watch, that ding-dong-ing bell, that fish!  Some of you may know why. For those who don’t, cue the trumpet!

My little book, NOT NORMAN, A GOLDFISH STORY, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick Press), is Jumpstart’s Read for the Record book for 2015!!!

What’s that mean? Only that, on October 22, 2015 children and adults will read Not Norman together, aloud, it what can become—for the Record—the world’s largest shared reading experience! You, too, I hope.

In case you don’t know, Jumpstart is a non-profit early education organization with a mission of helping every child in America enters school prepared to succeed. Their motto is:

How does it work?Jumpstart recruits and trains college students and community volunteers to work with preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. Through a proven curriculum, these children develop the language and literacy skills they need to be ready for school, setting them on a path to close the achievement gap before it is too late.”

Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, began in 2006, to raise awareness of the achievement gap and Jumpstart's work with preschool children in low-income neighborhoods—and to raise funds to support programs. Candlewick Press, Jumpstart’s partner in the 2015 campaign, in addition to other contributions, will donate some 13,000 copies of the Jumpstart special edition (available in Spanish & English) to ensure that anyone who wants to participate, can!

Thrilled as I was when Jumpstart announced Not Norman as the 2015 Read for the Record book, the magnitude of this honor didn’t really register until I did some digging into the history of past campaigns. Since 2006, when more than 150 thousand children & adults read The Little Engine that Could on the same day, thus earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records*, funds raised, number of books given to children—for many their first book—and number of children & adult participating has burgeoned. The record high to date is almost 4.3 million, set in 2012, when children & adults reading the same book on the same day! Totally freaks me out to think my little fishy story is on the list with such time-honored classics, all for a single purpose: Helping children read & succeed!

For the record: Yes, learning to read the words in a picture book is the goal. But we all know it’s the picture on the cover that compels children to pick up a book, and the illustrations inside that keep them turning—and returning—to those pages. Let’s hear it for Noah Z. Jones!

I first met Noah Z. Jones at a school event  6 years  after Not Norman was published.

I first met Noah Z. Jones at a school event 6 years after Not Norman was published.

Believe it or not, Not Norman is Noah’s first picture book! And, bucking traditional illustration techniques, Noah utilized his animation background and tech-know-how while he was at it; the art for Not Norman by computer!

Way back then, 2002-3, computer generated illustrations in picture books were unheard of. In fact, some reviewers scoffed. The rest of us, especially kids & I, loved it! One look at that cover, at that boy’s face peeking through the fishbowl with Norman as his nose, and I just have to laugh-every time!

You know, the 3rd thing I did, after learning Not Norman, a Goldfish Story, had been named Jumpstart's Read for the Record book for 2015? I went on a crazed Internet search. I looked up everything I could about Jumpstart, all about past Read for the Record Campaigns, and of course, the other 9 Read for the Record books.  You can bet my mind was ding-dong, flippin! Here's the list:

JUMPSTART Read for the Record books:

2006: The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper (more than 150,000 children & adults read the story on the same day, earning that 1st  spot in The Guinness Book of World Records.)

2007: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (258,000 children & adults participated)

2008: Corduroy written by Don Freeman (688,000 participated)

2009: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (2,019,752 participated)

2010: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (2,057,513 participated)

2011 Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (2,185,155 participated)

2012: Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by David Soman & Jacky Davis (4, 2,385,305 participated)

2013 Otis by Loren Long (2,462,860 children & adults participated)

2014 Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells (2,383,645 children & adults participated)

Add to that:

Not Norman, A Goldfish Story, by Kelly Bennett & Noah Z. Jones (How many children & adults participate on October 22, 2015 is up to us . . . )

What’s especially exciting is that this is Jumpstart’s Read for the Record and Not Norman’s 10th birthday! I sure hope you’ll join me in helping to make this 10th campaign a record breaker. Here’s How:

Mark Your Calendars: READ FOR THE RECORD DAY is October 22, 2015

Pledge to Read: http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/register-read

Get Involved: Donate! Join the Team! Be a Sponsor! http://jstart.org/get-involved/get-involved1

Buy the Jumpstart Special Edition of Not Norman: http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/jumpstart-shop  (English & Spanish available):

Play Around: Check out the free resources on the Jumpstart Toolkit: http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/toolkit

Spread the Word: Please share the Jumpstart Read for the Record link on social media word-of-mouth, too! http://www.jstart.org/campaigns/read-for-the-record

Who's Reading for the Record? Playlist:

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