For the last six years, the National Education Association has honored the anniversary of the great doctor's birth with its "Read Across America" program, which encourages schools and districts to read some of Seuss' works in their respective classrooms. Some districts have people from all walks of life come into the classrooms to read to the students.
Since March 2 fell on a Sunday this year, the NEA asked schools to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday on Monday, March 3, which became the national day.
The "Read Across America" day is a huge event in the Weehawken school system, with both schools, Webster and Roosevelt, participating with festivities and hundreds of members of the local community taking the time to go to the respective classrooms and read to the children.
But there's another important reason why the celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday is so important to the kids of the township. That's because Dr. Seuss included Weehawken in his classic tale, "Horton Hatches an Egg."
In that book, Seuss writes, "They took him to Boston, to Kalamazoo, Chicago, Weehawken and Washington, too."
"It's a neat thing for the kids to see and hear," Roosevelt School Principal Anthony LaBruno said. "They see it and recognize that Dr. Seuss remembered them."
Once again, kindergarten teacher Dorothy Helwig coordinated the events at Webster School, which goes all out in terms of decorations and costumes to enhance the event.
This year, in conjunction with "Read Across America," Helwig organized a book drive, where the students of the school were asked to bring in either a new or used book to donate to area charities and day care centers.
"We received well over 300 books," Helwig said. "Some of the books have already been given to the Story Hour at the Weehawken Free Public Library, so those kids could take a book home with them. We're also going to give some of the books to day care centers in the area and other charities. We had a much better response than what I expected."
The books will include a sticker that they were donated by the specific child at Webster. "It's going to take me a while to go through all of the books," Helwig said.
The seventh grade academically talented class came and read to the students and the Weehawken High School student council made the countless "Cat in the Hat"-style hats for the children to wear.
Many people from the community, including Mayor Richard Turner, Councilwoman Rosemary Lavagnino, Township Manager James Marchetti, Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan and Board of Education President Richard Barsa went to classrooms to read to the children.
"Not only does the entire township come out in full force, but the students really look forward to it," said Turner, who has two children in Roosevelt School. "They look forward to having people from all walks of life to read. But it's not only to read, but to talk with them, share their likes and dislikes. We talk about the importance of reading. It really becomes a great way to interact with the students."
It was the first "Read Across America" as principal for new Webster School leader Tony D'Angelo, who sported his "Cat in the Hat" topper all day.
"I loved it," D'Angelo said. "I was really excited by the kids' enthusiasm. It was great to see. Each classroom had at least one adult reader and a seventh grader. It was nice for me to read as well."
D'Angelo said that Dr. Seuss books helped him learn the English language when he arrived in Brooklyn from his native Italy when he was a youngster.
At Roosevelt School, LaBruno read the beloved Horton story, so the kids could hear "Weehawken" and get excited. There was a birthday cake, and student Shana Jodice dressed as the "Cat in the Hat."
"Our committee (librarian Anita Moroz, technology teacher Brian Calligy and fourth grade teacher Aurora Hoover) did a fantastic job," LaBruno said. "I can't thank them enough for the work they put in."
"I think it was very successful," Moroz said. "The kids were very enthusiastic because they participated in projects and activities before the day, so when the day came, they were ready."
In coordination with the "Read Across America" day, the Weehawken Education Association purchased books for both schools. The Webster School students were able to bring the books home, while the books purchased at Roosevelt School went to restore the school's classroom libraries.
"They also got some great non-fiction books, like science and social studies," Moroz said. "Those books were great additions. We're always trying to promote literacy. We hope that their enthusiasm for reading carries throughout their whole lives. Not just reading for education, but reading for enjoyment as well. The event was a lot of fun, but there was a lot of learning as well."