Each year elementary school students celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with “Read Across America Day.” Dr. Seuss is the pen name of Theodore Seuss Geisel, beloved author of the “Cat in the Hat” series.
Often adult leaders from the community are invited to schools to read to the children— including community leaders, school officials, parents, and grandparents—on or near Geisel’s March 2 birthday. (This would have been his 113th birthday.)
This year in coordinating the annual event, Herman L. Horn Elementary Reading Specialist Dorr Booan decided to invite two local Lions clubs—the Vinton Luncheon Lions Club and the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club. However, she also recruited the William Byrd High School girls and boys basketball teams to be part of the event.
The Lions and the Byrd students read to children from pre-school through grade five in 23 different classrooms at HLH. While some of the basketball players admitted to being a little nervous about the experience to begin with, they soon discovered that they were considered to be celebrities by their elementary audience.
While the HLH students were very attentive to and appreciative of the adults who volunteered to read their favorite Dr. Seuss books, they seemed most in awe of the Byrd basketball players.
Cason Nichols, a third grader in Traci Wren’s class enjoyed the visit— “It was neat because you got to meet a player from William Byrd.”
Kennedy Lohrmann, a student in the same class, said, “They were good readers; they knew EVERY word in the book!”
Kindergarten students in Kristen Bray’s class commented:
- “I enjoyed having the basketball players read to our class. They did a good job reading.” – Brooke
- “I like the players reading to our class because they play basketball just like me.” – Madison
- “The basketball players were cool because they play my favorite sport.” – Jesse
- “I liked hearing the basketball players read because they had really cool shirts on.” – Jay-Paul
- “The basketball players did a good job reading.” – Lilly
- “I really liked the books they read.” – Hope
- “I really liked the book, ‘Hungry Caterpillar.’ It’s my favorite!” – Tucker
- “I liked that we could ask them questions and they were nice!” – Vanessa
- “I liked that we had tall basketball players read to us!” – Ace
- “They didn’t read fast and they made listening fun!” – Lacey
Second graders in Kimberly Settles’ class also shared their thoughts about the Byrd ball players reading to them for Dr. Seuss’s birthday:
“The basketball players were nice and were good readers!” said Campbell Duff.
Lukas Johnson said, “The William Byrd basketball players were nice to have at Herman L. Horn.”
Jackson McCoy said, “I enjoyed the books they brought.”
And student Charlie Wright commented, “I liked the funny books they read. They made me laugh.”
The celebration included crafts and snacks, with a bag of popcorn for every HLH student, a special treat as we “Pop into many great books,” said Booan.
Students and staff were encouraged to dress in Dr. Seuss attire as a character in any of his books to celebrate the occasion.
There were reading incentives for students during the week. Children were invited to “slip into their fuzzy PJs to celebrate the Dr. Seuss “Sleep Day” book. There was “Green Eggs and Ham Day,” with students dressing in green. The “Wacky Wednesday” book was highlighted by students and staff wearing mismatched, inside out, or backwards clothing.
Students kept logs of their reading to earn bookmarks and a spot on the Hall of Fame Wall for things like reading in a tub, or reading to a friend. The Chick-Fil-A cow stopped by to help them celebrate the birthday on March 2 as well.
The first “Read Across America Day” was held on March 2, 1998. Sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) as its signature program, it is the nation’s largest reading event with millions participating each year.
The NEA aims to build a nation of readers, saying in Dr. Seuss fashion, “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”
Vinton Luncheon Lions who read to the students included Betty Reynolds, Jim Reynolds, and Bruce Mayer. Breakfast Lions Club members included Doug Adams, Lisa and Anthony Conner, Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, Ethel Noell, John Berry, Gary Myers, Hal Mabe, and also Vanessa Skidmore, daughter of Breakfast Lions Club president Joel Lytton.
Boys basketball team members who delighted the children by reading were Grant Watson, Casey Smith, J.J. Seymore, Derrick Chocklett, Jackson Honaker, Jayleen Wheeler, Luke Johnson, Alex Fitch, Reece Watson, Devon Kasey, Cullen Livingstone, Terrell Smith, Shawn Williams, and Cameron Lynch.
The William Byrd girls players included Katherine Stanley, Briona Hurt, Jacy Marvin, Megan James, Sydney Burton, Morgan Webb, Jada Karnes, and Megan Grant.
Brad Greenway, head coach of the girls basketball team, accompanied the players.