Read Across America Day brings students, community together

Salem High students from left to right: Rachel Torian, Natalie Valentine, Keeley Loyd and Garrison Conner.

Legendary cartoonist and book publisher Dr. Seuss loved to write. So much so that he authored over 60 children’s books over his career, including “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “The Butter Battle Book.” Read Across America Day, an annual occurrence that began in 1997, takes place on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

Each of Salem’s six public city schools participated in last Friday’s event, along with thousands of other schools throughout Virginia. Members of Salem High School’s National Honor Society came to East Salem, GW Carver, West Salem and South Salem Elementary School to read books to students.

Salem High junior Azyah Burnette says she always enjoys reading to grade school students. “They ask a lot of questions, and you can just see the enthusiasm on their faces,” she said. “Just eight years ago, I was in their shoes. Inspiring the youth is a good feeling.”

After reading to students at GW Carver, Nick Wade said he was asked a variety of questions. “They were really excited to learn more about Dr. Seuss, and I had fun explaining his legacy,” said the high school senior.

Whitney Flynn supported Read Across America Day long before she was employed at East Salem Elementary School. The pre-school teacher says she encourages her students to read daily.

“If you can entice students to read at an early age, they will continue to have the desire and passion for learning more,” she said. “I believe that students are made readers on the laps of their parents. Students have an eagerness to learn and as adults, we have to promote and encourage them.”

South Salem Principal Margaret Humphrey also regularly encourages her students to read outside of the classroom. “Children have so many different things to entertain them now, we have to teach them to love reading when they are very young,” she said.

Salem High upperclassmen showing the books they read in Miss Flynn’s classroom.

When it comes to Dr. Seuss books, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is a personal favorite of GW Carver Assistant Principal Sara Epperly. “Helping students become independent and engaged readers is a big goal of educators’ work,” she said.

Seeing kids get excited about reading is a feeling that never gets old for Elizabeth Lawrence, a West Salem kindergarten teacher.

“One of my favorite parts of teaching is seeing kids light up with pride after reading a book for the first time,” she said. “It is like they truly never realized it was possible and they just can’t believe they did it. It leads to great discussions and is an excellent way to connect with them.

In addition to being read various Dr. Seuss classics, Salem elementary students also got a chance to interact with the Cat in the Hat and received snacks throughout the day.

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel in 1904. He died on September 24, 1991, at age 87.