I love any day that celebrates reading, so Read Across America Day on March 2nd is special to me. A few days ago, a great idea for how to honor the day with a school-wide event popped into my head. Unfortunately, it came to me a little too late for me to actually implement it. I am writing about this idea on the day before the “big day” so that I can remember about it for next year and so that you might think about using it in the future as well.
On Read Across America Day, we can celebrate Dr. Seuss by singing songs, doing crafts, checking out websites and apps, and participating in lots of other fun activities. The most important way to honor this great author and illustrator, however, is to READ. Dr. Seuss was, after all, dedicated to helping kids learn how to read. What better way to honor him than by showing our students how important reading really is? My idea is to celebrate the occasion by having multiple opportunities for students to read throughout the day. Students will carry books around with them wherever they go and the whole school will stop and read at various points throughout the day. Here is my plan for how to make this happen on a large scale at my school:
- Talk to your administrators to get permission to hold this event. This is the type of event that will require school-wide cooperation and participation, so you will need to have admin. on board!
- Make sure that each student will have a tote bag that they can use on the day. They will use this bag to carry a book or several books with them them throughout the entire school day. Have bags waiting for students on their desks when they arrive. I was thinking about something like this bag from http://www.conventiontotes.com:You can do this in a number of ways:
- Ask students to bring in their own bags
- Purchase bags using Book Fair funds or other discretionary school funds
- You can consider purchasing bags that the students will get to keep. Maybe you can have the school logo or a cool slogan printed on the bags. If the students are going to keep the bags, you could also allow them to decorate the bags themselves.
- Another option is to buy class sets of bags that you can use year after year. Make sure to choose a sturdy material like canvas so that they will last.
- Ask your PTA/PTO to purchase the bags
- Solicit local businesses for a bag donation
- Purchase a large roll of raffle tickets.
- Gather a collection of paperback books of varying levels that will appeal to the students at your school. These books will be prizes for the raffle. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Ask for donations from parents
- Use Book Fair funds to purchase books
- Use points from book clubs to get free books (the book clubs often have large sets of paperbacks for sale that work nicely for this)
- Find a copy of I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! by Dr. Seuss. If your school has any sort of morning news broadcast, arrange to read this book on air on the morning of the event.
- Decorate the library with a Seussical bulletin board, balloons, or other festive decorations to build excitement.
- Inform teachers and other staff members about the event.
The Main Event!
- Start the day by making an appearance on your school’s morning news program. If your school doesn’t do a broadcast, try to make an announcement over the loudspeaker. Here is a sample script:
“Good Morning students! Today is a very exciting day called Read Across America Day. On this day, we celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest children’s authors of all time, Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss thought reading was one of the most important things you could do. He even wrote a book all about the wonderful journeys we can take through books, which I will share with you now [show and read aloud I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!] Today we will honor Dr. Seuss by enjoying “DEAR moments” throughout the day when we will Drop Everything And Read. Use the bags that your found on your desks this morning to carry a book (or a few books!) with you all day. When you hear an announcement on the loudspeaker, stop and READ until you are told to stop. There may be other surprises throughout the day, so make sure you keep your eyes open!“
- Throughout the day, make “DEAR moment” announcements over the loudspeaker. You might want to have the times planned in advance so teachers know when to expect them. When an announcement is made, EVERYONE in the school (teachers and parents included!) should drop everything and read. After about 5-10 minutes, end the moment with another announcement instructing everyone to “resume their day”. Depending on how long you want each session to last, I think between 3-5 sessions would be reasonable.
- During each “DEAR moment” ask school personnel (administrators, guidance counselors, librarians, etc.) to circulate the school and pass out raffle tickets to students who seem particularly absorbed in their reading. Explain to these students that these raffle tickets give them a chance to win a prize.
- At the end of the day, or the next morning, draw raffle tickets and announce the numbers over the loudspeaker. Ask all winners to come down to the library to claim their prizes. Have a table prepared with all of the paperbacks that you have collected and allow each winner to choose a new book to keep. You can base the number of raffle winners on the number of books that you have available as prizes.
The thing I love most about this idea is that it will (I hope!) create a real level of excitement about reading. Having the students carry their books with them all day is a great way to show them how important reading is. I can’t wait for next year so that I can give this a try, but in the meantime…Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!