PORTLAND, Maine — As workdays go, Wednesday was pretty laid back for Stephen Rogers.

The principal of Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland sat, surrounded by beach decorations, in the school lobby reading. He started before the opening bell in the morning and continued on as students were dismissed for the day in the afternoon.

Even for those who work in education, it’s typically hard to find time to enjoy a good book, Rogers said, so in addition to being for a good cause, his six-plus hours of reading Wednesday was a treat on a personal level.

Rogers read “The Places We’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss to the kids to kick things off at the beginning of the day, but he spent the vast majority of the day reading John Grisham’s “Sycamore Row” quietly to himself.

“This was awesome,” he said. “I don’t get to read for sustained amounts of time for pleasure outside of vacations. I had one student who told me, ‘You’re so lucky — I wish I could read all day.’”

That’s just the type of sentiment administrators and faculty members were hoping to hear from students. Throughout the day, classes rotated through the lobby space and joined the principal for hushed reading sessions.

“He was so impressed by all the reading our students were doing and inspired by their reading, that he jumped at the opportunity to read all day long, to encourage them to read,” said Jaime Snow, a language arts teacher at the school who helped organize the event.

The nationwide restaurant chain Pizza Hut called on principals to read through an entire school day, and those who accepted the marathon challenge would be entered into a drawing to win 101 copies of the popular book “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck.”

“It shows that he cares about us, because he wants to win us books,” said sixth grader Lorien Fish, 11, who joined classmate Shokran Abdulaziz, 12, at the end of the day to congratulate Rogers on his daylong read.

For middle schoolers or parents following along, Fish recommends the book “The Running Dream” by Wendelin Van Draanen, while Abdulaziz suggests picking up one of the books in Sienna Mercer’s “My Sister the Vampire” series.

Even if Rogers doesn’t ultimately win the “Wimpy Kid” books, the event was worthwhile, Snow said. The school is hoping to collect donations of books and money to establish a free library, so students can get their hands on gently used books easily on site, Snow said.

The celebrated readathon and eye-catching beach motif attracted the attention of parents Wednesday, and book donations began to pile up on the outstretched beach towels in the lobby as community members learned more about the effort.

“It’s been a huge success, and we’ve had support from every single person in the community,” said school literacy specialist Kelly Wallant.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.