Reading and literacy stressed to students nationwideFeb 24, 2023 12:19PM ● By Alisha Copfer
Children of different ages participate in reading and learning. Stock photo
In schools across America since 1998, next week has been built around promoting literacy. What started as Read Across America Day on March 2 has been built up to a year-long celebration of reading. However, it remains every year that on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2, that students across this nation all participate in a celebration that unites everyone.
National Read Across America Day is a National Education Association (NEA) initiative to encourage reading. The NEA partnered with Dr. Seuss Enterprises on the venture from 1997 to 2018 when the contract ended. NEA’s Read Across America now focuses on the importance, value and fun of reading and sharing diverse books. The week-long event this year starts on Monday, Feb. 27 and will end with some events stretching until Sunday, March 5.
“This year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships and reading resources that are about everyone, for everyone,” the NEA says.
From promoting good daily reading habits to getting students involved in different programs, Read Across America is the nation’s largest celebration of reading. While Dr. Seuss’s books have recently received scrutiny, the celebration continues to promote literacy in schools.
In 2019, due to the scrutiny of Dr. Seuss, the NEA rebranded Read Across America. It moved away from exclusively using Dr. Seuss books and like-themed activities. It introduced a new theme of “creating and celebrating a nation of diverse readers.” Its website (nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america) now highlights works by and about people of color.
“There’s a growing need for schools and libraries to include and promote diverse books,” says the NEA website. “Students need books that provide both windows and mirrors if we are going to create more readers, writers, and people who feel included and recognized and who understand that the world is far richer than just their experiences alone. NEA recognizes the need to work with a more diverse array of organizations and publishers to fulfill this need, and the Read Across America brand is now one that is independent of any one particular book, publisher, or character.”
But in many schools, the week is still synonymous with Dr. Seuss. Many teachers decorate their classrooms to match books like “The Cat in the Hat” or “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and teachers and administrators dress up like Thing 1 and Thing 2. Teachers still read Dr. Seuss books during class time. And many schools have an assembly or morning meal dedicated to promoting literacy through Dr. Seuss books.
“Across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents and others develop Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages,” says the NEA website. “Governors, mayors and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And educators and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall to boost their students’ enthusiasm for reading.”
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go,” Dr. Seuss wrote.