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.

 To nominate a community to be featured as a Bright Spot, please contact Betsy Rubiner at brubiner@gradelevelreading.net.

 Is your community celebrating Read Across America Day? If so, share your experience in the comments box!

 Want more? Check out:

  • How Vero Beach, Florida  has marked Read Across America Day. 
  • How Georgia's statewide grade-level reading campaign coordinates efforts to provide free meals and literacy activities in local libraries to children in 22 counties.
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Betsy Rubiner is a writer and senior consultant with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

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Comments

  • What a wonderful event Tacoma! I will share your experience at the Earl Boyles Elementary (preK - 5th) Family Engagement Committee, which plans a family literacy breakfast every year on Read Across America Day. We will pay special attention to the lessons learned!
    • Oh, a family literacy breakfast. That's a lovely idea. What's the agenda for the breakfast? How long has it been going on at Earl Boyles Elementary?
  • It's exciting to see how this event has more than doubled the amount of children reached in just 1 year. Thanks for sharing lessons learned from 2014, and I'm sure communities will be anxious to hear how this year goes! Looking forward to seeing what next year will bring.
  • This is perfect timing. I am so happy to see that our network is really networking. Love the idea of Read Across America Day. We have a snowed in day in DC and I spent most of the day "just reading" -- stopping every once in a while to work a little bit. :-) What fun! Thank you all for all that you do.
  • Way to go Tacoma! We join you and many GLR communities in promoting the love of reading for children on Read Across America Day. We also celebrate by announcing the winners of our annual "Literacy Champions Grants" to local organizations for family literacy programming. This year's event will be held at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, one of our longtime partners, with children from Head Start.
    • That's wonderful, Ginny. How many organizations received grants from the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County in Syracuse?
      • We made 7 awards last year (which totaled $50,000) to organizations that work with refugee families, adult learners, libraries and child care centers in our target areas in the City of Syracuse. We also connected with the March Read Aloud Campaign which provide tons of materials to use, just visit: http://www.readaloud.org
        • Good idea to connect Read Aloud and Read Across America. Congrats on those grants to community organizations!
  • Thanks for sharing! Loved seeing a Pacific Northwest Partner featured and LOVED seeing great ideas to borrow as we move forward!
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