Students Get Seussed
Read Across America celebrated throughout Santa Clarita schools.
Santa Clarita elementary school students are having a week-long birthday celebration for a very special writer – Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Along with silly hats and tongue-twisting words, the celebration also gives adults a chance to impart their love of reading to young children.
The Read Across America program, sponsored by the National Education Association, is in its 10th year. The premise is simple: invite a variety of local celebrities, from beauty queens to politicians and everyone in between, to spend some time in school libraries wearing goofy red-and-white hats reading to children from their favorite books. The point is to motivate and raise awareness of the importance of reading, both for learning and pleasure, in our daily lives.
They even invited radio news people to join in.
On Monday, Jon Dell read to students at Canyon Springs Community School. His book? “Horton Hears A Who.” On Tuesday, I read “If I Ran the Zoo,” another Seuss favorite, to students at J. Michael McGrath Elementary School. Comparing notes, Jon and I found we had two completely different approaches to reading in our lives. What follows are our first-hand “book reports”…
Reading Just To Read
By Jon Dell
When I pulled up to Canyon Springs Elementary in Canyon Country Monday morning, I was excited. Read Across America is fun way to get out of the office and share a fun story with kids.
This year, I was given “Horton Hears A Who,” and sent off to the third grade classrooms. The story details a friendly elephant who vows to protect a city situated on a speck of dust that no one else thinks is real. The recurring theme of the story is undoubtedly “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
After doing my best to dance along word arrangements only Dr. Seuss could create, the children and I discussed the book and other aspects of reading…mostly.
“Do you know Spiderman?” one child asked me. Trying to keep my New Year’s resolution of not lying to children, I responded cleverly: “I have never met him…but I think he lives in New York.”
After swaying the conversation back to reading, I shared with them my thoughts on the topic.
I believe reading to be one of the most fundamental and necessary skills a person can have. That having been said, reading wasn’t really something I ever felt was “my thing.” I used to hear my grandmothers rave about getting lost in a novel when they were young, spending countless days lying under the trees wholly devoted to some epic tale.
In school, I was forced to “popcorn” read along with the classics and write book reports, all the while thinking that I didn’t fit in.
It was in my senior year of high school, however, that I found my cure. That year, seniors could choose their own English course, and I chose screenwriting. I had learned some of the trade and become grossly obsessed with it. To help sharpen my skills, I looked to reading the most readily available source; theatrical plays (Special thanks to Mrs. Manfredi, who, as the former Drama teacher at Valencia High turned me on to Neil Simon).
It was then that I fell in love with reading. For the first time in my life I found myself being absorbed into the written word. No longer did I constantly forget critical story elements that I had read two weeks before. I could read a whole play in an hour, maybe two, and then it was on to the next!
Soon, I ventured into newspapers, magazines, short stories and biographies. Now, I read every day in multiple forms, and as a result, I am capable of understanding information, and passing it along.
So when I read to children as part of Read Across America, I tell them to seek out formats they enjoy. Because through the fun of reading will naturally come the understanding of words, which will be required of them for their entire adult lives.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
By Carol Rock
I couldn’t help borrowing the title of a Seuss book that seems to be required reading for every graduate from elementary grades through graduate school. In fact, it was the one Seuss book my daughters warned me NOT to read. The title, for me, captures exactly what reading is all about.
When I was growing up, my parents weren’t big on vacations or activities. Our weekends were spent visiting relatives, sitting around inside talking or sharing a TV show. Often, I was the only youngster in a house full of adults and had to find something to do keep me occupied. Books were the perfect companion.
I didn’t visit New York until I was over 50 years old, but I knew what it was like from “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” “A Highland Collie” started me on a lifelong love of big dogs. I rode along with John Steinbeck in “Travels With Charley” and lived vicariously through an oceanic epic reading “Moby Dick,” all before I knew how to drive.
I used to come home from school and read, sitting at the dining room table next to the patio window. My mother used to say I couldn’t have a meal without reading. It was a hard habit to break and something I still slip into if dining alone.
It also didn’t take me very long to figure out that there was much to be learned from the newsmagazines like Life and Look, which brought the best in photojournalism into our house on a regular basis. If there was a subject too uncomfortable for dinner table discussion, I just needed to check the library or bookmobile for several experts on the topic.
So as I read this morning about the imaginative Gerald McGrew and his impossible zoo, I wanted to share with those eager children who “ooohed” and “aaahhed” at the animals that reading was the one thing they could do to completely escape and grow. In fact, one of the first-graders in my audience summed it up perfectly. When asked why they should read, he simply said “It makes you better.”
Yes, it certainly does.