Monday, February 22, 2010

Read On, America

Read To Me
By Jane Yolen

Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes,
Read to me stories of magical times.
Read to me tales about castles and kings.
Read to me stories of fabulous things.
Read to me pirates and read to me knights,
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights.
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then,
When you are finished -- please read them again.

Tuesday, March 2 is Read Across America Day -- the National Education Association's celebration of Dr. Seuss's (Theodore Seuss Geisel's) birthday. Now in its thirteenth year, the year-round "Read Across America" program is designed to motivate kids to read through a variety of interesting and engaging events.

The day's events will kick off at the Library of Congress, where Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, members of Congress, NEA leaders, and -- of course! -- the Cat in the Hat will host local schoolchildren for a day of reading -- and pledges to keep reading.

In my Connecticut neighborhood, a local college is once again sponsoring its Annual Cat-in-the-Hat Ball, at which costumed (and be-hatted) attendees will dine on pizza, green eggs, Ooblick, and other tasty treats. Admission is $5 or one new children's book per family.

In LaFayette, Georgia, the local library is holding a "Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss Read-A-Thon" -- and pajama party.

In fact, in schools across the country, students, teachers, parents, and administrators are planning events designed to knock off your socks -- one sock or two; red socks or blue -- and motivate your kids to read.

Even as all those wonderful festivities promote the value of reading and the bounty of books, however, the country's oldest and largest promoter of childhood literacy -- Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) -- is wondering about its ability to survive.

RIF, a book distribution and reading motivation program that began in Washington, D.C. in 1966 and now operates in all 50 states, receives 80% of its funding from the federal government. But President Obama's proposed budget for 2011 eliminates funding for RIF. Without that federal funding, according to RIF, nearly 4 1/2 million children and families will not receive free books or reading encouragement from its programs. Can we really afford that kind of set back in our efforts to promote literacy in this country?

In an attempt to save RIF, the organization currently is rallying parents, educators, and the community at large to participate in an online "write your politician" campaign. Why not make that campaign part of your Read Across America Day celebration? Just go to, click Act Now to Help, and enter your zip code. Do it because reading really is fundamental.

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