Millions to participate In NEA's Read Across America Day celebrations

There's only one event that will get teachers, principals and school employees to dye their hair blue, cook up a breakfast of green eggs and ham, or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students' enthusiasm to read.  Nearly 45 million are joining the National Education Association in the ninth annual Read Across America Day, to bring the gift of reading to children who have been affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Massachusetts Literacy Champion Jason Varitek will read to kids in Ft. Myers at the Red Sox spring training facility. The NEA's National Read Across America Team will be led by two co-captains, National Football League (NFL) superstars Tiki Barber, a running back of the New York Giants, and his twin brother, Ronde Barber, starting cornerback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

As part of the Read Across America celebration, Saturn dealers are offering teachers free cardboard Cat in the Hat stovepipe hats.

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Starting this month, Read Across America will travel to the Gulf Coast region on a Reading Relief Tour to visit public school libraries impacted by the hurricanes.  Three Cat-A-Van tours will kick-off in Mobile, Ala., Jackson, Miss., and Houston on Feb. 28, and will culminate in the New Orleans area with Read Across America Day on March 2 -- the birthday of beloved children's author Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. 

"As millions of schoolchildren open up a book this Read Across America Day, we wanted to ensure that those who have lost so much during the devastating hurricanes can also be in the company of a good book," said NEA President Reg Weaver.

The tour route will include book donations and read-in stops in more than 26 Gulf Coast cities, including Baton Rouge, La., Beaumont, Texas, and Biloxi, Miss. During the tour, a host of celebrities, athletes and public figures will participate in reading events and drop off books to public school libraries and their students.

Last year, a new Spanish language program, "Lea con la NEA!"("Read with NEA”), began to reach out to the Latino community.  The Spanish language program provides parents, educators and students with reading materials and resources.

Read Across America will introduce an official song for the program's 2006 activities. "My Time," from the critically acclaimed Kindred the Family Soul, was selected as the Read Across America's 2006 theme song because it stresses the importance of making reading a family affair.  "My Time" will be played during Read Across America activities and events taking place around the country.

Visit www.nea.org/readacross for the latest information and a listing of events happening around the country.

Planned events around Massachusetts include:

The Haggerty School in Cambridge  is planning a "Seusapallooza Day" with 40 piñata’s filled with poetry words inspired by Dr. Seuss. They will also be hosting Sara Underwood from Channel 4 for the first and second graders and the Cat in the Hat will be visiting the four kindergartens.

At the Raynham Middle School fifth graders read to the children in the school's kindergarten program for the month leading up to Read Across America day.

In Everett, High School students read to students at the elementary schools. Star alumnus Omar Easy, a running back on the NFL's Oakland Raiders as a reading role model. He recently talked with students about the importance of reading and is expected to serve as a guest reader on RAA Day as well. Easy provides young readers with autographed photos as incentives to read.

In Marlborough, Senior Guest Readers are invited to read to the children in each classroom.

In Springfield, The Doctor's hometown, Emily Harris plans to have her seventh graders read silently in class each day leading up to March 2nd, when she plans to celebrate how many books they've read with a birthday party for Dr. Seuss.