There's only one event that would inspire librarians to dye their hair green and principals to allow students to duct-tape them to the walls. It's Read Across America Day, of course! Today, educators around the country will do all sorts of wacky things to get kids excited about reading.
The National Education Association (NEA) came up with the idea for the annual literacy campaign in 1997. Their goal: To motivate kids to pick up books all year round. "What began as a few reading parties 14 years ago has grown into a huge national literacy event," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "As educators, we know that students who read—and are read to—do better in school and in life."
Read Across America Day takes place every year around March 2. The NEA chose that date in honor of beloved author Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel's birthday. This year marks Seuss's 107th birthday. More than 45 million readers nationwide are expected to participate in the festivities.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and more than a dozen celebrities helped start the day off in Washington, D.C., at the Library of Congress. The star-studded lineup of readers included actress Jessica Alba, Super Bowl champ Donald Driver and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi. The First Lady read the classic Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham. More than 400 students from around the area were in attendance.
On February 24, Target and the NEA kicked off the yearly celebration with a special event at the New York Public Library, in New York City's Bryant Park. Local schoolchildren, teachers and parents were invited to take part in a day of readings, music and other fun and games.
Actors Mark Ruffalo, Uma Thurman and Keri Russell, and rapper Common took turns reading Dr. Seuss books to the young audience. Up first was Ruffalo, who read The Lorax, a favorite of his family's. "I have three small children who are all learning to read right now," Ruffalo told TFK. "We read this and other books as a family every night, and I see how beneficial it is for them."
Does Ruffalo act out the parts for his kids? "I do a bit of that, but they like the voices to be more natural," the Oscar nominee said, chuckling. "They don't like over-the-top characters."
Uma Thurman, who played Medusa in last year's Percy Jackson film, read her favorite Seuss story, Oh, the Places You Will Go. Thurman suffered from dyslexia as a child. Dyslexia a learning problem that makes it difficult to read and spell. In fifth grade, when the actress finally overcame this "learning individuality," as she calls it, "I had this amazing sense of victory," Thurman told TFK.
What advice would she give to kids who are going through the same thing now? "Have patience," the actress said, speaking from experience. "Don't shy away from reading, even if it seems like it's impossibly hard. Stay with it, and trust that it will become yours."
A Commitment to Education
Target representatives announced the company's pledge to donate $1 billion to education-related programs by 2015. They also unveiled an enormous "READ" installation on the library steps. The 26-foot-tall sculpture is filled with more than 15,000 Dr. Seuss books. Target plans to donate those books—and 10,000 more—to New York City public elementary schools.
"One of the most important elements of a child's success is ensuring that they can read," says Laysha Ward, president of community relations for Target. "There's no better event than Read Across America to celebrate reading."