Every year, to honor his memory and his birthday, the National Education Association encourages people all across the country to take the time to honor Dr. Seuss and read to children.
People from all walks of life, from professional athletes to astronauts, from politicians to police officers and firemen, all took part in the program nationwide last week.
According to the NEA's website, it was estimated that more than 2 million adults took time out of their busy work schedules to read to as many as 10 million youngsters all across the country.
Both Weehawken elementary schools, Webster (grades pre-kindergarten through second) and Roosevelt (grades third through sixth), had celebrations in honor of "Read Across America" day.
Webster School celebrated Read across America with visits from dignitaries like Mayor Richard Turner, Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan, council members Rosemary Lavagnino and Robert Zucconi, as well as the local chapter of the Girl Scouts and the seventh and eighth grade academically talented classes.
"I thought it was a cute day," Webster School Principal Anthony Colasurdo said. It was the second year that Colasurdo participated in Read Across America, considering that Colasurdo was the vice-principal at the high school before moving to Webster last year.
A whole lot of hats
"The school was decorated nicely," Colasurdo said. "Everything and everyone were splendiferous in Dr. Seuss regalia. People were dressed as characters from his books. It really was a great setting. It's an annual tradition here and I was glad to be a part of it."
At Webster School, every student received a hat like the one worn by the famous "Cat in the Hat," with the hats donated by Saturn Dealers of New Jersey.
Members of the Weehawken High School Peer Leadership group helped to construct the hats.
"I think it helps the youngsters get excited about reading, when they see the older ones reading to them," said kindergarten teacher Dorothy Helwig, the coordinator of the Webster School "Read Across America" festivities. "They think, `Well, if they can read, then I can learn to read.' It helps as a motivation. I think it's important to have a day like this, especially with the lower grades, because it encourages reading and makes reading fun."
Colasurdo was pleased with the turnout of volunteers.
"It was a complete community effort," Colasurdo said. "So many people came to read and we're always happy to open our school to our parents and to others. It really was a great day."
Book mentions Weehawken
Similar festivities were held at Roosevelt School, where the popular Seuss book "Horton Hatches an Egg," was read.
Why is that particular Seuss book important?
Because Dr. Seuss included Weehawken in his classic tale about the famed and beloved elephant who traveled the country while sitting on an egg.
In that book, Seuss writes, "They took him to Boston, to Kalamazoo, Chicago, Weehawken and Washington, too."
"When the kids read that and hear that, they get all excited," said Roosevelt School technology teacher Brian Calligy, who coordinated the event once again with librarian Anita Rusconi. "They realize that Dr. Seuss remembered Weehawken. It's always fun for all the kids."
"The kids love it, especially the younger ones, the third graders, who probably never heard it before," said Roosevelt School Principal Anthony D'Angelo. "The older ones knew it was coming, but the third graders got all excited. It was a lot of fun for the children, but it was especially great for the youngsters to see the people in town come out. It was a good turnout. It's good for the children to see that the adults and the elected officials really care."
Mayor Turner enjoyed reading to the children in both schools.
"Not only does the entire township come out in full force, but the students really look forward to it," Turner said. "They look forward to having people from all walks of life read [to them]. 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. One of the key reasons why Weehawken's public schools excel is due to the district's emphasis on reading, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Added Turner, "It's an annual event and it's a fun event. It's amazing to see how much the kids are really into reading. It's a great theme and the entire community gets together."
At Roosevelt School, there was a birthday cake for Dr. Seuss, complete with "103" in candles. Getting a slice of chocolate cake also helps children to read as well.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org