Dear Dr. Linda,
I’m a school librarian and I wanted to remind your readers that March 2 was “Read Across America Day.” Teachers, librarians and others who read with children encourage schools, libraries and parents to celebrate this day with their children. This special date was chosen because it is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, the adored children’s author. That alone makes children smile and encourages them to pick up a book and read. Thanks so much!
Thanks so much for reminding us this is a special day. Reading, above all else, is an essential skill for our children to learn. Yet reading, in our country, is often taken for granted. Whether reading a book on paper or on a hand-held device, a street sign or a menu, a newspaper or a magazine, reading connects humans with the outside world.
Although reading is simply putting sounds with a group of letters and making sense of it, without it, we would have to depend on others to tell us what’s happening elsewhere, complete with their opinions and biases. By knowing how to read, our citizens can make their own educated decisions.
How did “Read Across America” begin? In May 1997, a small committee at the National Education Association (NEA) decided to create a day when children of all ages could celebrate reading. They compared reading to football and decided that if children can have pep rallies for football, then they should also have pep rallies for reading. And what better day—Dr. Seuss’s birthday!
Dr. Seuss introduced millions of children to reading. The rhymes and silly stories of “Cat in the Hat,” “Go Dog Go,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and more opened up the world to these children. And his final book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” took them on a voyage of life, including all its challenges:
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
But the idea wasn’t meant just for one day. It was intended to encourage children to read all year round. Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement in school and beyond, but many teachers, parents and librarians interact with children every day who not only dislike reading because it’s hard for them, but become anxious just looking at a book. Whether they have a reading disorder called dyslexia or were forced to read when they didn’t want to, they hate reading.
These children’s needs must be addressed so that they don’t become illiterate. But that takes taking each child, discovering his or her current reading level, engaging them, activating their brains and devising a fun way to get them to practice so they become readers, too. Since we know that children love to play and have fun, we have to bring joy to non-readers so they can connect that joy to reading. Dr. Seuss understood that like no one else. Above all, aren’t his silly rhymes fun?
You can help, even if you don’t have young children in your life. Get involved in next year’s Read Across America. Go to a library and offer to read one of Dr. Seuss’s books to a group of children. Your library or the NEA’s website is a good place to start. Or if you want to learn more about dyslexia and the reason it presents a problem for people and reading, go to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and the Everyone Reading websites. There are plenty of ways to help.
Contact Dr. Linda at stronglearning.com if you have any questions about a child who loves to read or is afraid to read.