Read Across America

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 6, 2014

Students from all corners of the nation celebrated Theodor Geisel’s birthday Monday by participating in the Read Across America Day, which is designated to motivate children to read.
Geisel, better known as the beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, wrote and illustrated dozens of whimsical, rhyming children’s books that remain popular today. He would have been 110 years old this year.
As he wrote in the book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
That’s why volunteers from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College went to Koontz and Morgan elementary schools in Rowan County, as well as Rocky River and Beverly Hills elementary schools in Cabarrus County to read to all the kindergarten and first-grade classes. They distributed individually wrapped books to all 800 students in the 31 classrooms they visited.
Last year, Dr. Rod Townley, vice president of academic programs at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, asked Jenny Billings Beaver, an English professor and curriculum chair, if she’d consider organizing a book drive for local elementary schools.
When she learned that 60 percent of students who attend a Title I schools in the local area do not have age-appropriate literature to read at home, Beaver readily agreed.
“That crushed me,” she said.
So she set up a book drive on campus and partnered with the Rotary Club and the college’s students, faculty and staff to collect approximately 900 books. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College distributed the books at one school.
This year, Beaver began collecting books in August. She used the college’s website and emails to promote the book drive and published updates to blackboard, an online communications tool for students and teachers. The Rotaract club got involved, and students were offered extra credit and community service credit for participating in the drive.
“We just kept advertising,” she said.
The results were noticeable. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was able to collect more than 1,200 books and expand distribution from one school to four.
Of the 1,268 books, 900 of them were age-appropriate and in good condition. The remaining 368 books were donated to Hope Haven, a drug and alcohol facility that works to recover and heal entire families, or Julia’s Coffee House, which collects and sells used books to benefit Habitat for Humanity.
Before going into the schools, more than 25 volunteers sorted, wrapped and labeled books. They used roughly 800 of the books for this year and have a 100-book head start for next year.
“We really enjoy it,” Beaver said. “It’s something fun and different.”
Beaver decided that Read Across America Day would be the perfect time to distribute the books.
Read Across America began in 1998 as an initiative by the National Education Association “in order to promote literacy at home,” Beaver said.
Read Across America Day is traditionally celebrated on Geisel’s birthday, March 2, but this year it fell on a Sunday. So President Barack Obama issued a presidential proclamation declaring March 3 Read Across America Day this year.
The four schools where Rowan-Cabarrus volunteers went weren’t the only ones that celebrated Read Across America Day in the area, though.
Granite Quarry Elementary School celebrated it the Friday before Geisel’s birthday.
Forty members of Carson High School’s leadership team came read to the school and read a Dr. Seuss book in each classroom. The lower grades read “The Cat in the Hat” and upper grades read “The Sneetches,” then they all did a craft or activity that went along with the book.