Schools celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday with Read Across America events

Students all over the country donned their red-and-white-striped stovepipe hats last week to celebrate the birthday of one of the most beloved children's authors ever, and students in Bartow County were no exception.

Friday marked the 114th birthday of Theodor "Ted" Geisel, better known to legions of young readers as Dr. Seuss, and for the 21st year, the National Education Association's Read Across America event celebrated the unofficial holiday by focusing on the critical need to instill a love of reading in the nation's children.

The Georgia Association of Educators, the event’s state sponsor, encouraged its local affiliates and partners to conduct reading activities last week in schools, libraries and businesses across the state.

In Bartow County, students at Mission Road Elementary School marked the occasion with a book character parade to "promote reading and literacy among our students and to celebrate an author who contributed to children’s literature," GATEWAY teacher Kimberly Wynn said. 

"We have done a book character day for many years," she said. "In recent years, we moved it from Halloween to Dr. Seuss’ birthday to put the emphasis more on the importance of reading."

All 456 students, as well as teachers and staff members, were invited to dress as their favorite book character and parade through the hallways of the school Friday morning, Wynn said. 

Among the literary figures that made an appearance were "Star Wars" characters, Disney Princesses, Mario and Luigi, Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz," Minnie Mouse and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

Staff members also dressed up as characters from such books as "Mr. Popper’s Penguins," "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site" and "Pete the Cat," according to Wynn.

"The fourth-grade teachers went through the building as the USA Olympic curling team that won gold," she added.

The parade "turned out great and is always a favorite event of the year," Wynn said, adding "many parents attend this event." 

But it wasn't the school's only observance of the author's birthday Friday.

"Each grade level did different activities to celebrate," Wynn said. "Some had special foods or made crafts related to Dr. Seuss’ books."

At Kingston Elementary School, students in all grade levels were visited Friday by theater students from Cass High School who were dressed as characters from the author's books.

Drama teacher Chris Agan said KES media specialist Leigha Burnham contacted him about "some of my students coming over to interact with the elementary students as Seuss characters."

"At the event, my students [Aly Childers and Tyler Rawlins] greeted kids in costume and helped the organizers pass out party favors," he said, noting four of the six students who initially were going ended up having Advanced Placement testing Friday. "They took pictures with the KES students and just talked with them or played games with them."

Burnham, who is new to KES, said she is "trying to build community relationships and partnerships within our school library program, and she knew that "literature and drama are closely linked."

"When planning our Seuss-themed reading celebration, it was natural to me to reach out to Mr. Agan at CHS, and he agreed that having his students come in character for our reading celebration would be a nice way to connect our two schools," she said. "We have already started discussing future collaborations as well." 

Kindergarten through second-grade students were brought out first and received a snow cone from the Kona Ice truck.

"My students interacted with them as they danced and played, and Tyler, as Sam-I-Am, gave out stickers and helped kids put on various costume pieces — wigs and hats — that we brought with us," Agan said.

For the third- through fifth-graders, Aly and Tyler "helped pass out favors and organize lines for the Kona Ice truck," he said. 

"All in all, I feel like this was a great event, and kudos should go to Mrs. Burnham for putting it all together," he said. "She really did a great job. It was a great experience for Aly and Tyler as well because they have to do character work outside of the context of a script and stage. That can be difficult for any actor." 

As for other Bartow schools, Woodland High early childhood education students were bused to Cloverleaf Elementary to read to several classes; the Cat in the Hat made an appearance at Euharlee Elementary; and Clear Creek Elementary invited parents, grandparents and guardians to come read with their students, and one class had a special guest reader, Cartersville firefighter Tyler Brown.

At Cartersville Primary and Elementary, the school nutrition staffs — wearing the trademark stovepipe hat — served up green eggs and ham Friday as a special treat in honor of Dr. Seuss' 1960 best-seller.

The schools also honored the beloved author by participating in Read Across America, inviting special guests to come into the classrooms to read classics like "The Cat in the Hat," "Horton Hears a Who" and "Green Eggs and Ham."

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