Bright Spots are written and produced by the Campaign to showcase the work in Grade-Level Reading communities to make progress on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning by 2016. Continue reading below or download a PDF version.
Firefighters, football cheerleaders, the county sheriff and high school “daffodil princesses” (whose reign honors a regional product) will be among the many volunteers in Tacoma, Washington, donning red-and-white stovepipe hats (in Cat in the Hat style) and reading to young children to mark the nationwide Read Across America Day on March 2.
“By engaging all these different people in the community, kids see that everybody reads and it can be fun,” says Nola Renz of the United Way of Pierce County, based in Tacoma. The United Way co-leads the local grade-level reading campaign with the Foundation for Tacoma Students, which supports a community-wide effort to help children succeed from cradle to college to career.
The Tacoma celebration — known as Dr. Seuss Read Around the County — is part of the 17th annual Read Across America Day event that will be marked by many GLR communities and beyond. Sponsored by the National Education Association, the event coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss, aka the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, who was born on March 2, 1904.
Like several communities, Tacoma’s celebration will occur on the official Read Across America Day (a Monday — and a school day) and also on the Saturday beforehand. Nine elementary schools will host events on March 2 and seven public libraries will host events on Saturday, February 28 — reaching some 2,000 children.
The library gatherings are offered “to reach a broader array of children from the area,” explains Renz, the United Way of Pierce County’s Community Impact Manager for Early Grade Success. “Most are in a different neighborhood than the schools” involved and often, especially at the library, “we have a chance to visit with parents.”
The 2015 celebration will be Tacoma’s second — with more than double the events planned and children reached. Last year, three schools and three libraries hosted events for about 700 children.
Although all went well in 2014, organizers learned two valuable lessons — start planning earlier and select a book that is shorter and better suited to the target audience of children in kindergarten through third grade. Organizers wanted to “select something that felt a little more age appropriate so the kindergartners could have fun with it and get into it, as well as the third graders,” says Renz.
For the second go-around, planning by a five-person team from the United Way started earlier — with celebration locations confirmed by December. “It makes it much easier,” says Renz. “It takes some time. There are several staff members involved, to design flyers and posters, do volunteer engagement and network with the different library systems and school districts.”
United Way also provides the books and all-important hats for the readers, does advance site visits and pitches in on the day of the event, which takes about an hour and includes both the reading and an organized craft activity for the children.
Also this time around, two books by Dr. Seuss were chosen to be read at each site, by two different readers — One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? — replacing 2014’s solo section, Oh the Places You’ll Go! (Another Dr. Seuss gem that is, coincidentally the National Education Association’s chosen book for the 2015 celebration.)
“It’s a great opportunity to get in front of a bunch of kids,” says Renz. “It’s really all about the joy of reading.”
For tips and ideas to plan your own Read Across America Day event, go to Plan a Reading Event and follow Read Across America on Facebook and Twitter with #readacrossamerica. Photos: United Way of Pierce County; Publication date: Winter 2015.
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