Read Across America, the one-day literary celebration in honor of children's author Dr. Seuss, was being held in classrooms across the country. Dr. Seuss, who would have turned 98 this year, created the concept of beginner books and wrote nearly 50 rhyming children's books that have since been translated into 20 different languages.
Read Across America was started five years ago by the National Education Association to promote the idea that reading is important and fun. Each year, the promotion is held on Dr. Seuss's birthday, March 2. However, since Dr. Seuss's actual birthday fell on a Saturday, children celebrated Read Across America on Friday, March 1 this year.
"Dr. Seuss is one of my favorite authors," said Nicole Pinto, a fourth grade student at Jefferson School in Union City. "He always teaches you a lesson in his books."
In honor of this holiday, seven Memorial High School Students in West New York, dressed as the Cat in the Hat, visited the first and third grade students in each of the town's six elementary schools to read the story.
Also, various Board of Education supervisors and administrators as well as town officials, police officers and firefighters visited schools in Union City and West New York to read to the children.
"The students have to know that reading just isn't for show, it is for your life," said Lois Tarr, the president of the West New York Education Association.
Using role models
Besides the Cat in the Hat and the many town officials and administrators that visited the students in West New York, there were visits from famous athletes and television stars.
New York Giants running back Tiki Barber read to first grade students at Public School No. 1 at 6129 Madison St. New York Giants kicker Owen Pochman read to students in kindergarten through third grade at Public School No. 4 located at 317 66th St.
While many of these young readers may not have known who Barber or Pochman were before their visit, one celebrity that the children would recognize visited the district's pre-school students at the West New York Public Library located at 425 60th Street.
Emilio Delgado, better known to children as Luis from Sesame Street, read a variety of books to West New York's three and four year olds.
"This is the Sesame Street age group," said Delgado, who joined the cast in 1971 during the television show's third season. "How can you not love this age group?"
While reading, Delgado explained the importance of having a library card and reading at home.
"Every little bit helps when it comes to instilling the importance of reading in children," said Delgado. "Just getting them to open a book is monumental."
Dr. Allan DeFina of West New York, the president of the New Jersey Reading Association, the state professional organization for educators, said that something as little as having children scribble or write down grocery lists is important for their literary development. (See sidebar).
"This is a very important age group," added Delgado. "This is the age where they are ready to learn and have fun while learning."
Four-year-old Koby Garcia was listening when Delgado explained the importance of the library.
"I have a lot of books at home," said Garcia after listening to Delgado read him a story. Garcia also said that he wants to get a library card so that he can visit the library more often.
Reading Across America
The students in Union City took the holiday's title, Read Across America, a little more literally this year. The students in several of the city's schools were able to read to children and be read to from people all over the United States with the help of Lucy Todd, who works in the district's technology department.
Through a series of electronic field trips, these students visited a zoo, a deaf and mute school and a museum.
At Washington School, the first grade students visited the Cape May County Zoo where they were able to read books and learn about animals. The first and second grade students in Woodrow Wilson School visited the Television and Radio Museum in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The fourth grade students at Jefferson School read from their favorite fairy tales to students in Fairlawn, N.J. and to a deaf and mute class in Virginia.
"I think that we are going to do something good for the other kids," said Pinto about wanting to read to the children in Fairlawn and Virginia.
"This opportunity is very extraordinary," said Joyce Logothetis, the fourth grade teacher at Jefferson School who read Cinderella in Greek to the students. "The students are able to see and appreciate other classrooms."
However, before saying goodbye to the other classes, the fourth graders had a special message of their own. Reading is power, which the class said in sign language before signing off.