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A half-dozen kindergartners surround teacher Jennifer Clark for an exercise in creating a shopping list.
At the top of each child’s list is milk and cookies.
One child ventures to spell chocolate milk and doesn’t quite make it on the first try.
They are learning to read and learning to write and seeing firsthand how having that ability is necessary in all aspects of life.
“Reading is the foundation for all other subjects,” said Clark, a kindergarten teacher at Rock Ridge Elementary School. “To have a good foundation in reading means so much to the kids.
“Not only are they reading words, but they are learning to comprehend, which opens up more avenues with science. In math they are reading. It really helps support all of the other content area across the board.”
This week and next week, elementary schools in Wilson County had special activities planned for Read Across America, an annual reading motivational event that uses Dr. Seuss books to captivate the interest of young readers.
Today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904. He authored more than 60 children’s books.
“Dr. Seuss was an amazing author, and we can use his books for so much,” Clark said. “No. 1, he’s fun, and reading is fun. The children need to learn to love to read, and Dr. Seuss does that. He teaches them to love to read.”
Seuss’ books are so much more than the fun and the silly words, Clark said.
“There is a lot of good content,” Clark said. “He hits on a lot of good social issues, like ‘The Lorax,’ teaching kids how to preserve the environment. I am using ‘The Foot Book’ to teach opposites. That helps them to learn new words,” she said. “It helps them to manipulate words, and it helps them to learn that reading is not a job. It is something that can be fun, and with that, we are also teaching that learning is fun.”
The books are filled with silly rhyming words that young readers can latch onto.
“It helps with their phonemic awareness,” Clark said. “The rhyming teaches them those sounds. It re-enforces everything that we are trying to teach in kindergarten, which is going to help them in the grades to come.”
Throughout the week, schools incorporated daily activities. At Rock Ridge, for example, kids wore a mustache on Monday. On Tuesday, they found a friend and came to school dressed as twins. Wednesday was wacky sock day. Thursday was red and blue day, and Friday was crazy hat day. Every activity was coordinated with a Dr. Seuss book.
“Reading is important is everything we do,” said Rock Ridge Principal Emily Chilton. “We are highlighting reading this week to show the kids the importance of reading everywhere.”
Fourth-grade teacher Kerry Wilson said if the children are interested in the Dr. Seuss books, then they are more likely to be picking up more books.
“Reading is every day,” Wilson said. “We use reading going to the grocery store. People need to read signs when they are driving. We just see it in everyday life, and it is extremely important that they can read and can comprehend what they are reading.”
READ ACROSS AMERICA
At Jones Elementary School, members of the public came in to read to classes Friday.
“I want the kids to see that everybody reads,” said second-grade teacher Christine Gilmore. “I want them to see that it is important for everyone to read, not just them, when the teachers say, ‘Hey, you need to read a book,’ but that everybody reads.”
Readers were dispersed throughout the school with Dr. Seuss books to read to students.
Wilson County Schools Superintendent Lane Mills was among them.
“I think it shows support for not only our schools but for the importance of readings in our families and in our day-to-day lives with our children,” Mills said. “It’s a very wonderful modeling lesson for them to see. It’s important not only for their development but also for the development of their love for reading for their whole life.”
Reading, Mills said, is a wonderful gift.
“You do use it every day, but what we need to see is folks using it for things other than our phones and the day-to-day screens, the deeper reading and the reading of fiction, nonfiction, the informational text, those kinds of things make a difference in all of our lives,” Mills said. “That lifelong joy of reading is something we want all of our students to develop early on and keep.”