The gift of literacy: Schools celebrate Read Across America Week

Published 12:10 am Friday, March 3, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Koontz Elementary School was a flurry of activity Thursday morning as visitors poured in. The sound of familiar stories spilled from open doorways into the hall as students listened to guest readers with rapt attention.

The day was part of a districtwide observance of Read Across America Week, a national celebration of reading. Thursday was also the 113th birthday of children’s literature giant Dr. Seuss.

“The whole premise is to celebrate the love of reading and the love of Dr. Seuss,” said Kelly Feimster, director of instructional programs.

Throughout the week, students dressed up, put on plays, worked with reading buddies or participated in other fun activities to celebrate a love of reading. Feimster said that although Dr. Seuss wrote children’s books, his work has lessons for older readers, as well — such as caring for each other and protecting the environment.

On the second-grade hall, representatives of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College read aloud Dr. Seuss books.

The group is part of Read Across Rowan and Cabarrus Counties, an organization sponsored by RCCC’s English department. The group collects age-appropriate books all year long, then heads out to schools in March, which is National Literacy Month.

Each book is carefully wrapped in colorful paper; Jenny Billings calls it “giving the gift of literacy.”

While the group visits nine schools in Rowan and Cabarrus counties, on March 2, the book lovers go to Koontz Elementary in honor of Seuss’ birthday. Koontz was the first school the group worked with, Billings explained.

On Thursday, volunteers went to five second-grade classrooms at Koontz and read to students. At the end of the time, they gave each student a book to unwrap. Billings said this year, Read Across Rowan and Cabarrus was able to collect 1,100 books. The group will visit partner schools for the entire month to give books to second-graders.

Feimster said the goal of the week is to encourage students to “just keep reading.” The week falls at a good time of year, she said, when the district is in “kind of a lull” and students need something to get them excited and engaged. Read-alongs encourage children to read and give them positive role models to look up to.

Fiemster herself read a book to students at Koontz, as did Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander, City Council member David Post and others. Hearing from successful adults reminds students that reading isn’t just for fun — it’s an important life skill, as well.

“For everything you do, you’ve gotta know how to read,” Feimster said.

The week isn’t so much about structure and skill as it is about fostering a love of reading.

“It makes you realize how fun learning can be,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.