A Parent's Guide to the World's Biggest Reading Party
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On March 2, millions of kids will crack open a book. Every day is an important day for reading, but on this very special week books get a major national pep rally as famous athletes and actors issue reading challenges, mayors read proclamations, and teachers tape themselves to the wall...all in the name of reading. And your kids can join them!
Serena Williams did it. So did football superstar Tiki Barber and Oscar winners Gwyneth Paltrow and Morgan Freeman. Since the National Education Association (NEA) launched Read Across America in 1997, some pretty famous people have cracked open a book for a cause: the world’s biggest reading party.
Learning to read is a rite of passage for kids. But it’s a challenge for almost 40% of them, according to the NEA. That’s why they decided to use Dr. Seuss’s birthday as an excuse to give books a little sizzle. Across the nation, more than 45 million people are expected to take part in the celebration. The mission: make reading fun. Really fun. Teachers, principals, parents, and librarians are doing some crazy things to congratulate kids for completing a reading challenge—from eating fried worms, to parachuting out of airplanes. They’ve kissed yaks, cannonballed into gigantic vats of green jello, and velcroed themselves to gym walls. Seattle’s Pikes Place fishmongers painted their daily catch red, blue, and yellow after the Seuss classic One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 106 meteorologists traded in their weather hats for “reading hats”.
Why all the fuss? Well for one, kids who read for fun do better in school and better on standardized tests, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card. Reading often and early to young children also affects their ability to count and write their names. But more than that, reading is just plain magic. “When children open the pages of a good book, reading can ignite their imaginations,” says former NEA President Reg Weaver. With so many entertainment choices at their fingertips, kids don’t always think to open a book. The point of Read Across America, is to urge them to consider it. “Although children have many distractions like TV, video games and high-tech gadgets, nothing rivals the power of reading the written word,” says Weaver. “The challenge is cutting through the competitive clutter to get children energized about reading.”
On March 2nd there will be teachers cooking up plates of green eggs and ham, traveling Cat-a-Vans zooming across the country on a 1,200 mile, 18-city tour, books in hand (12,000 of them!). There will be “Read Across Spring Training”, designed to bring books to ballparks, with Major League baseball stars hosting read-ins for local kids—from Baltimore’s Orioles to LA’s Dodgers.
You can get your kid fired up to join them. Short on ideas? Here are five ways to make the day your own:
- Pump Up the Poetry: Want to give poetry a modern bent? Get kids to launch a poetry slam. Especially for older elementary and middle school students, slams toss rhyme off the page and make it come alive.
- Cozy Up with Books: Invite a bunch of kids to a pajama party and ask them to bring their favorite book. Pop up some popcorn and ignore the usual bedtime. Share stories around the circle, getting each kid to read, or ask their parent to read for them. Give away some flashlights for some under-the-blanket reading once it's time for lights out.
- Recruit Local Heroes: Get children to contact their local sports teams, mayor, or other heroes and ask them to come on over for a Read-athon. Seeing people they admire reading helps make it seem cool.
- Break Some Records: Give your child a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records and challenge him to break a reading record himself! Whether it's with a group of friends or flying solo, records are made to be broken!
- Hats Off: Read Across America is celebrated on Dr. Seuss's birthday because he's the most read children's author of all time. Celebrate Seuss in style by reading a selection of his books and creating some stovepipe hats. Hats are easy to make using a coffee can with a paper plate taped on to make the brim. Just cover in paper, paint on some white and red stripes, and kids are good to go!
So get those books out! And figure out your own way to make reading come alive. Not just on March 2nd, but every day. Click here to jump to our "Learning to Read" area. Or find great reading activities for every grade level here.