The event was part of Read Across America.
The annual observance is meant lasso two Zinn-a-Zu birds with one rope: First, it celebrates the March 2 birthday of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss; second, it encourages parents to read to their children and promotes literacy among kids. In some school districts, celebrities, sports stars, and local politicians come in to read to the students.
After some brief conversation with the kids on Monday, Elwell got down to business. For, in the words of Geisel, there was fun to be done, points to be scored, and a game to be won.
"Who here knows how to play Jeopardy!?" the mayor asked.
Several hands shot into the air.
"You all may know more about Jeopardy! than I do," Elwell said. "We're going to play a game of Jeopardy! and all the categories have to do with Dr. Seuss."
The five categories included "the Cat in the Hat," "Characters in Dr. Seuss," "Green Eggs and Ham," "Dr. Seuss 101," and "Fill in the Missing Title."
Questions ranged from the relatively easy "What colors are on the cat's hat" (red and white) to the more difficult "how many words are in the Seuss book 'Green Eggs and Ham' " (50).
Incredibly, the Whos eventually answered all of the questions correctly.
"I did pretty well," said Angelica Barile, 13, who added, "I came here today because I love the library and I thought I would have a lot of fun. I also wanted to see how much I know about know about Dr. Seuss and all his books."
Fellow contestant Vraj Desai, 13, said, "I came here to learn more about Dr. Seuss and the answers to all these questions."
It was a stunning comment, given that he already knew the answer to one of the hardest questions of the day.
Desai was the only player who knew there were 50 words in "Green Eggs and Ham.")
Read Across America
The National Education Association (NEA) launched Read Across America in 1997 and timed the celebration to coincide with Seuss' birthday because, according to NEA materials, Seuss "epitomizes a love of learning. [His] use of rhyme makes his books an effective tool for teaching young children the basic skills they need to be successful."
Before stepping into the role of Jeopardy! gameshow host Alex Trebek, Elwell said a few words as mayor, stressing the importance of reading and comprehension.
"What did you learn in school today?" Elwell asked. "Did you do a lot of reading? You probably did. Reading is very important. Who can tell me why reading is so important?"
"Reading is important because everything you do involves reading," Barile answered after the mayor called upon her.
"That's right," Elwell responded. "And being able to comprehend what you read is important, too."
The mayor encouraged the children, who ranged in age from 4 to 14, to stretch their comprehension skills by occasionally reading books that are a little bit challenging.
Later Elwell stressed the importance of taking time out of his schedule to spend with the town's youth.
"The youth are a very important part of our community, and any encouragement that I can give to children to read, or do anything that's educational, I think is important," Elwell said. "Children look up to the mayor, especially at this age. So, I think it's important for me to be here to support their education, and also to support the wonderful staff at the library in their efforts to work with our kids."
Elwell considers the new library among his greatest successes as mayor.
After Jeopardy!, children's librarian Jennifer Breuer read Seuss books "Gerald McBoing Boing" and "Happy Birthday to You!" to the kids.
Although 9-year-old Migarel Park said he was "happy" that the mayor joined them for the game, the real man of the hour was Geisel.
"My aunt brought us here because she knows we love Dr. Seuss," said Park, who was there with sister his Rebekah, age 6, and his cousin Eileen Lim, age 4. "I always read his books. They're my favorite. But, well, actually I like to read everything. I like to read all the time."
If he keeps that up, oh the places he'll go.