“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
These were the words alongside an illustration of Dr. Seuss’ iconic Thing 1 and Thing 2 characters that greeted guests at Austin Elementary School for National Read Across America Day on Thursday.
Elementary schools and some middle schools celebrated Read Across America Day on Dr. Seuss’ birthday by inviting special guest readers to read their favorite children’s books.
The National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America is a year-round literacy project that encourages both young and old to celebrate reading.
“Right here in LCISD, we’re getting into the reading excitement,” said Austin Elementary School Reading Facilitator Shae Collins.
“All classes got a special visit from a guest reader,” said Collins. “We had various school staff members, former teachers, school volunteers, and many community members participate as readers.”
Students and staff wore their pajamas to “cozy up and read.” The school even had a surprise visit from the Cat in the Hat, donned by PTO President Melissa Roe.
Guest readers included: Former teachers – Cindy Bilski, Sheri Knox, Debbie Harmon and LCISD Board member Kay Danziger; Pecan Grove Fire Dept. members Dean Hamrick, Jennifer Easley, Jim Bradford, and Chief Joe Woolley; Sugar Land Police Dept. Officer Harris Johnston, Fort Bend County Deputy Marshall Slot. and first responder and former Life Flight Nurse Denise Davis.
“A lot of these are retired teachers that came back, so a lot of the kids recognized them and were happy to have them back in the class,” noted Collins.
“One of them used to teach third grade so she went to the fifth-grade class. This is her last year having kids that she knows.”
Bilski, who kindergarten teacher Pam Hobson described as “a local celebrity” (“Her uncle was the former Rosenberg mayor for years. We met at Jane Long [Elementary School] in the 1980s and we’ve been friends since.”) came to read her favorite children’s book “Little Red Riding Hood.”
“When I was about your age in kindergarten, I had a favorite story that I liked to get read to me,” Bilski shared with Hobson’s kindergarten class. “I couldn’t read all the big words, but I knew what was going to happen by the picture clues.
“I loved these books called fairytales, but they don’t always have fairies in them. They’re kind of like old fashioned stories that people brought with them to America from countries that came from long ago.
“Well these are the people and many, many more that came across the ocean who didn’t bring much with them, but they did bring their stories,” she continued.
She picked up her collection of books and read the titles out loud: “The Little Red Hen,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Chicken Little,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “The Gingerbread Man,” “Rumplestiltskin,” and “The Ugly Duckling.”
“Lots of boys and girls have never heard of these books and it makes me very sad,” said Bilski. “They’ve only heard about Disney stories. These are the old-time stories that somebody finally brought across in their mind on the boat from Europe, like Germany, France, all those places.
“They brought them packed in their memory. Finally, they got written down because people didn’t want them to be forgotten. That’s why I think these stories are super special for all of us to keep telling our children when we grow up.”
Hobson noted that every Dr. Seuss day, “every March 2, is Read Across America Day. So every [elementary] school in America is doing what we’re doing today – dressing up in pajamas and having local celebrities visit.
“It’s just a big celebration. For kindergarten, we’ll be celebrating this whole week. We’ll be cooking green eggs and ham this afternoon.”
Buddy classes — including Mrs. Bullard’s fourth grade class and Mrs. Lemos’ kindergarten class — got together to do special activities like making Oobleck, an ooey, gooey, sticky substance from one of Dr. Seuss’ books.
The Sugar Land Skeeters also visited in the afternoon to kick off a reading incentive program for the month of March.
Library, music, art and physical education teachers were able to incorporate activities relating to reading of Dr. Seuss and his work, Collins added.
“The students and staff work so very hard all year long to learn and master the rigorous state curriculum,” said Collins. “So it has been refreshing to take time today to remember a cherished children’s author and celebrate the joy of reading in so many fun ways.”