“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.” That’s the message the National Education Association (NEA) hopes to get out during this year’s Read Across America celebration. The event is held on March 2, to commemorate the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. But the festivities aren’t limited to one day. From February 26 through March 4, students, teachers, and families nationwide will revel in the joys of reading. You may even see a teacher or two wearing the Cat in the Hat’s signature striped headgear.
Read Across America began 19 years ago as a way to get kids excited about reading. “You have this magical thing happen when an adult sits with a kid and turns the pages, and reads in a funny voice, and you giggle together,” Lily Eskelsen García, the NEA president, told TFK. “The whole point is making it fun, not for the next test, not because it’s something they have to memorize or something they have to struggle with. Just sit and read for fun.”
That fun involves celebrating the zany characters created by Dr. Seuss. This year, Southwest Airlines is one of the sponsors of Read Across America. Flight attendants on some Southwest flights will wear red-and-white stovepipe hats, like the Cat in the Hat does, to spread awareness about the event. NEA representatives will accompany extra-special guests Thing 1, Thing 2, and the Cat in the Hat to schools and community centers in six cities: Dallas, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; and Atlanta, Georgia. They will bring books, costumes, activities, and more, all to help kids see that reading can be a blast.
A New Find
Kids can celebrate Read Across America with any book. But in honor of Dr. Seuss, they might want to pick up his most recent published work, What Pet Should I Get? It was discovered 20 years after Dr. Seuss’s death and published in July of 2015, delighting fans of the beloved author. Like other Dr. Seuss books, What Pet Should I Get? incorporates rhymes, humor, and familiar Seussian illustrations. In it, a brother and a sister visit a pet shop and have trouble choosing just one animal to bring home.
Eskelsen García says NEA chose Dr. Seuss’s birthday for its “literacy party” because his appeal his universal. “You can go anywhere in the world and see a translation of The Cat in the Hat,” she says. And, she adds, “Everyone loves birthday parties. You’re going to have a piece of birthday cake, and you’re going to read Green Eggs and Ham.”
Anyone can participate in Read Across America. All it takes is grabbing a book and a few loved ones, and sharing in the joy of reading. “Taking out that book, like I’m going to do on March 2, and looking at those [kids] who will clap their hands and start reading the book with you, because they’ve memorized it, [you can tell] someone has lovingly sat with them and read it,” Eskelsen García says.