Camp Lejeune, NC | March 8, 2012
Led by some of Dr. Seuss’ most prominent characters, lines of children strolled through the streets around Tarawa Terrace II’s Elementary School leaving behind their desks and classrooms to celebrate Read Across America, Feb. 28.
Read Across America is an annual nationwide event created by the National Education Association and celebrated during the school’s annual character parade.
When some think about reading they think of dusty tomes in dimly lit old-fashioned rooms, for students at TTII Elementary School, reading becomes something more – an adventure that gives the children a sense of what reading can bring them: fun, excitement, and new worlds to explore.
The children donned colorful costumes through the march and called out chants from their favorite books.
They dressed as characters such as Lulu from David Soman and Jacky Davis’ “Ladybug Girl,” a picture book where a young girl is told she is too young to play with her older brother and finds her own adventures as Ladybug Girl. Another child was dressed as a dancing dinosaur from “Dancing Dino’s go to School,” in which dinosaurs bring musical mayhem to a school classroom.
“(The parade) makes books real to them,” said Carol Dula, an information specialist with Tarawa Terrace II Elementary School. “They become part of the story.”
Read Across America is an annual nationwide event that began in 1997. It was created by a group from the NEA who decided to create a day to celebrate reading after noting that there are events such as pep rallies to build excitement for football, but none for reading, according to the NEA website.
The event is celebrated yearly on or around Dr. Seuss’ birthday due to his contributions to children’s literacy. Dr. Seuss, a beloved author who wrote 46 books, is the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel.
In 1954 Geisel’s publisher read an article in Life magazine about illiteracy among children. It suggested that the problem stemmed from the lack of interesting material available for them to read.
The publisher then asked Geisel to write a book using words from a list of words that the publisher felt were important for children to learn. Geisel wrote “The Cat in the Hat” which brought instant success and began a long running trend of interesting books for children.
“It’s important that (the children) gain an appreciation for literature,” said Dula. “They (need to) understand that books are for more than just homework. They open up the world for them.”
While the parade was not just for Dr. Suess’ works, many classes had themes revolving around his books, such as a group of children with fake mustaches and brown construction-paper hats dressed as Mr. Brown from Dr. Seuss’ “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?”
The kids held signs that showed pictures they drew, along with the item or animal’s sound. Another class dressed as a forest of Truffula trees from Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.”
“Dressing in character gives the children the opportunity to be creative,” said Monica Ward, a teacher at the school. “They aren’t just dressed as what you see on the front cover of the book. (Their costumes) are things from the inside of the book, small details that some may miss.”
“The kids are learning that reading is much more than sitting in a classroom,” said Ward. “It lets them know that reading is a serious activity that can be fun. I think the kids see that there is excitement and joy to reading.”
The school also held a Read Across America Family Night, Friday, which included a reading theater and a reading rock-along.