SOMERVILLE, NJ – Dr. Seuss would have been proud to see the impact he had on the Somerville community Thursday, as several dozen “readers,” some dressed as the Cat in the Hat, visited the Van Derveer Elementary School to help students celebrate National Read Across America Day.
They joined with an estimated 45 million students in all 50 states to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday and the joys of reading.
Principal Susan Haynes reached out to a long list of past contributors, from Somerset County Freeholder Director Peter Palmer to state Sen. Kip Bateman, Somerville Police Chief Dennis Manning and Somerville Board of Education member Luc Sergile to spend time in the classroom with the K-5 students reading Dr. Seuss books or books they brought with them.
This is the 13th year the school has participated in the annual event, according to Haynes.
“Every year it’s gotten larger and larger, I send out the invitations and once you show up, you’re on the list forever,” she said.
The readers gathered in the school lobby and mingled for more than 30 minutes before the school’s 5th –grade senators escorted the readers to their assigned classrooms. The lobby, hallways and classrooms were decorated in a Dr. Seuss theme, reflective of the books that have been children’s classics for generations
Roger Jinx, Somerset County superintendent of schools brought along a copy of “Wretched Stone,” a book that he has read to classes over the years, according to Haynes. He hesitated to use the book when he learned he had been assigned to a first grade class.
The Wretched Stone is a children's picture book written and illustrated by author Chris Van Allsburg. Told from the perspective of Captain Randall Ethan Hope, the crew of the Rita Anne finds a strange, glowing, cubic stone on an exotic island. After taking the strange object aboard their ship, the crew becomes obsessed with the stone, abandoning many of their former interests and leaving the captain wondering how to shake the crew out of their stupor.
Gradually, the glowing stone turns the entire crew (except the captain) into grinning apes. It is told in a 'journal' format, as it takes place over the course of May 8 to July 12 of an unspecified year.
Jinx thought the book’s metaphorical message about obsessing with television might be too abstract for the first-graders, according to Haynes.
“He said ‘I think this is too hard.’ I said ‘I don’t.’ He came flying into my office afterwards and told me that none of the classes where he had read the book before had grasped the symbolism, but for the first time in 12 years, the class had recognized the metaphor; he was beside himself,” Haynes said.
“Those are my kids,” she said proudly.