What better holiday than celebrating reading?

Published 12:41 am Saturday, March 4, 2017

All across the nation, children have been participating in the National Education Association’s Read Across America week.

The week is centered around the birthday of Dr. Seuss, whose funny, musical rhymes have appealed to children for generations.

Part of the local celebrations included character days in local elementary schools, in which children dressed up as their favorite characters from a book.

Nationally, the NES has been celebrating Read Across America for 20 years. As I visited Andalusia Elementary during character day on Friday, I knew without a shadow of a doubt if we had celebrated back in the day, I’d likely have gone to school dressed as Nancy Drew, or perhaps Jo from Little Women, Laura from the Little House series, or, if I could have figured out a costume, Maid Marion from Robin Hood.

Frankly, the Seuss books were too silly for me, but when I was 6, I used them to teach my 3-year-old brother to read. Playing school was not silly, I suppose.

Our schools do a great job encouraging children to read with the Accelerated Reader program, and through the Alabama Reading Initiative. But studies show that those who read with their parents at home do best.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, since 1993 only 53 to 58 percent of children ages three to five received this joy on a daily basis. But the benefits are great:

  • Children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school.
  • Children who read frequently develop stronger reading skills.

In Covington County, the Dolly Parton Imaginary Library gives every parent the tools they need to read to their children, introducing them to books and emphasizing the importance of reading. The Imagination Library provides each child born in the county a new book each month from the time they are born until they go to kindergarten. By the time they start school, they have a personal library of 60 books.

In Shelley Smith’s kindergarten classroom at AES Friday, students explained that authors write books and illustrators give us the artwork to make them more interesting. Those are mighty big words for kindergardeners, and further proof that we should start reading early. The lessons they learn will last a lifetime.

Kudos to all of those teachers who go the extra mile – wearing costumes, or wacky-tacky socks, or any other amusing thing to get children interested in books. Yours is among the most important jobs in the world.


Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.