Celebrate Read Across America

In Tewksbury, the whole town gets into the spirit

Read Across America

From left, Tewksbury Teachers Association members Colleen Allison, a reading specialist, and teachers Kathy Carleton and Robyn Hakala read the Dr. Seuss story “Happy Birthday to You!” to Dewing Elementary School students.

At the Loella F. Dewing Elementary School in Tewksbury, celebrating Dr. Seuss is a two-week event that involves the whole community.

Pre-reading and reading are a welcome part of the daily routine for students at the preK-2 school, first-grade teacher Kathy Carleton noted. But Read Across America — which will be formally celebrated this year on March 2 — is even more special, as are the days that follow.

“We celebrate Read Across America for a lot of reasons,” said Carleton, who has taught at the school for nine years and been a teacher for 20. “Number one is to promote reading. Second, Dr. Seuss was a Massachusetts resident; we like to celebrate people from Massachusetts and all of the great things they have done.”

The third reason is simple, she said: “What student doesn’t love Dr. Seuss?”

The idea for a national day dedicated to literacy was hatched in 1997 at the National Education Association, which chose the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel — known byreaders around the world as Dr. Seuss — as the date.

Some Read Across America events are woven into tradition at Dewing and some have come and gone. One year, educators brought in bubble wrap. As Dr. Seuss’s “Hop on Pop” was being read aloud, the students stomped on the wrap in the hallways. “That was fun — but very loud,” said Carleton.

Smaller wrap was brought in for any students sensitive to loud noises so they could step on the bubbles in the relative quiet of their classrooms.

This year, educators will honor another tradition — keeping a tally of books read as a schoolwide challenge.

The students will visit the “Dewing School Museum,” featuring posters of famous artists on the walls along with representations of their work. As each class meets certain goals, it will be introduced to the next famous artist.

This year’s chosen book — “The Ant and the Grasshopper” — will be read to students on the last day of the challenge at an all-school assembly. Then the students, wearing bright colors to celebrate the arrival of spring, will enjoy a memorable “dance party” arranged by a local disc jockey.

Bringing in the community impresses on the children that no matter what they become in life, reading plays a major part.

Two years ago, Tewksbury’s first responders were invited. Fire and police officers and EMTs were on hand, as were members of the military services and the School Committee. In past years, the town manager and other municipal officers have been invited — and Boston Marathon runners were on hand for one RAA celebration.

One of the most popular events has been “Read Across the Dewing,” with the students sitting in the hallway enjoying sustained silent reading.

“Everyone just dropped everything and read,” Carleton said. “The kids loved it.”

With all the activities surrounding Read Across America Day, students and their families get the message about the importance of reading. In 2015, the students impressed educators, parents, and their community with a total of 3,100 books read over the two-week span. 

Suggestions, resources and reading lists are available at nea.org/readacross. The site features a poster; the Read Across America song, oath and poem; and a link to the Dr. Seuss “Cat-a-log.” NEA’s Read Across America Facebook page offers even more ideas.