I started my career teaching high school English. If you’d asked me back then about promoting Read Across America (RAA) Day, I would have thought you were crazy. Why would we celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday at the high school level when we could be focusing on Shakespeare, Thoreau, or Steinbeck? I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I know this to be true: Dr. Seuss never goes out of style. These books are fun, clever, and nostalgic—they turn children into readers and teach life lessons. They honor reading and show us how to be good citizens and friends. As an educator, parent, and lover of books, I urge teachers at all levels to plan a Read Across America celebration. Here are some reasons why:
- Celebrating Seuss takes us back to our childhoods. When I was in grade school, I can remember my librarian reading Dr. Seuss books to my class. I recall loving these read aloud sessions. Seuss books take me back to simpler times spent at school or in the lap of my parents reading. It's fun, even as an adult, listening to and reciting Green Eggs and Ham or learning about kindness through books like Horton Hears a Who or The Lorax. These books are pure nostalgia—for me, for other educators, and for kids. Read Across America lets us happily relive our childhood memories through Seuss books.
- Dr. Seuss’s books capture the joy of reading. In the same way that Seuss books take us back to our youth, they also remind us that reading is and can be fun! A Read Across America celebration is a great way to showcase the joy of reading. Kids of all ages need to see that reading is not just a chore and a skill—it is also an enjoyable pastime. When I was a kid, I was an avid reader through middle school. Then, high school hit. Social activities took precedence over reading. Today, cell phones and video games distract from reading. But a Read Across America promotion can help remind students that reading anything and everything can be engaging, and maybe even better than technological distractions.
- RAA is not just about Seuss’s works, but about reading and literature as a whole. As teachers, no matter what subject area we teach, we are all responsible for fostering reading skills—and better yet, a love of reading—in our students. That’s why all grade levels should do something for Read Across America. At elementary levels, we talk a lot about Seuss in particular on March 2 as it’s his birthday. At the secondary level, however, schools can extend this to other great works: popular young adult authors, graphic novels, the classics, and biographies. Teachers can talk about what they are reading or their childhood favorites. RAA is a great opportunity to bring attention to reading—an often forgotten pastime at the secondary level.
- Read Across America activities are fun to implement. When I was first hired as a school librarian, I was told that one of my duties would be to plan a Read Across America week for our school. After my first year, I was hooked. Planning this week allows for fun, creativity, and collaboration—some of my favorite things. The RAA week at my school is something we all look forward to. This week includes book promotions, prizes, birthday cake in honor of Dr. Seuss, an assembly, a staff skit, coloring contests, and more. We have theme days, we dress up, we read Seuss books, and we try to share the joys of reading with our students. Teachers and students alike enjoy this week and all that it entails.
I hope you decide to go for it and create a Read Across America celebration in your school. And even if you don't have the time for a week of activities, consider creating one day of fun. You will enjoy the planning, your students will have fun, and it will be a wonderful way to promote the importance of reading as a school. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
If you are interested in seeing what a typical Read Across America week looks like, check out this blog. In addition, there are tons of resources available online, from printables and STEM activities to lesson plans. Good luck and have fun!
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