Colorful handmade paper top hats and an array of Dr. Seuss decor helped to create a festive atmosphere in the Michelson Elementary School gym March 1 for the celebration of National Read Across America Day and the 115th birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

“This yearly event is a wonderful way to remind our students and their families of the importance of reading; reading favorite Dr. Seuss books is a perfect way to celebrate his birthday, after all, children love birthday celebrations,” said Michelson kindergarten teacher Nanelle McCracken, who co-organized the event with Library Media Specialist Melissa Francis. “The Dr. Seuss books are especially popular with young readers because of the zany characters and use of rhymes that make the books engaging and entertaining.”

The fun began with a surprise visit from five Calaveras Sings Theatre Arts Repertory (CSTARS) cast members who performed “It’s Possible” and “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think” from “Seussical,” a musical featuring the stories and characters from a variety of Seuss tales.

Morning festivities also included pairs of fourth- and fifth-graders reciting “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” – a Seuss favorite selected as the showcase book for the week’s celebration – an upbeat, rousing rendition of the birthday song and students echoing the Reader’s Oath, a promise to read, every day and every night.

During the week, Francis hosted birthday parties in the school’s library, where children played fish-themed games and left with a free book of choice as a party favor.

“I liked everything,” said first grade party-attendee Gracie Russell as she tried to estimate the number of goldfish crackers in a jar. “I had fun.”

Other activities included buddy reading sessions and Seuss-themed accents throughout the campus.

“What a wonderful way to celebrate reading and literacy,” Francis said, dressed for the day with a red and white Cat in the Hat-style hat perched on her head and Seuss’s fish swimming across her light blue T-shirt. “I’m trying to promote excitement in reading and for students to become lifelong readers.”

Fostering lifelong readers is the mission of the Read Across America initiative created by the National Education Association in 1997.

“Reading with children helps them learn the basic rules of print. Vocabulary, language skills and knowledge about the world are acquired during this special interactive time,” McCracken said. “Reading daily teaches young children the skills they need to be successful readers, encourages their curiosity to learn about new things and provides a beautiful opportunity to sit and visit with a child about a good book. Activities like Read Across America send a strong message to America’s children that reading is fun and important.”

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