Last week, Rhonda Lee, Muskogee Public Library’s early literacy coordinator, and I had the opportunity to relive an endearing part of our childhoods.

We spent the otherwise bleak Thursday morning at Muskogee Day Nursery in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday and as participants of the Read Across America program. We were joined by Ben Luton, Muskogee High School student who portrayed “Cat in the Hat” in the recent production of “Seussical: The Musical.”

Rhonda and I came in costume as the mischievous Thing 1 and Thing 2 while Ben appeared as Dr. Seuss’ beloved Cat, complete with neck scarf and his red and white striped stove-pipe hat.

The opportunity to share our love of reading with the 50-plus students and adults at Muskogee Day Nursery was made possible through the generosity of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries Literacy Resource Office.

The Muskogee Public Library’s Adult Literacy Office received a grant in January for children’s books to be distributed during the Read Across America literacy campaign.

The National Education Association (NEA) annually sponsors Read Across America. Launched in 1997, NEA’s Read Across America focuses the country’s attention on how important it is to motivate children to read.

The nationwide reading celebration takes place each year on or near March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Theodor Geisel aka Dr. Seuss, who epitomizes a love of learning. Dr. Seuss’ use of rhyme makes his books an effective tool for teaching young children the basic literacy skills they need to be successful readers.

Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school. Research also shows that the literacy level of the parent has a direct effect upon the literacy level of their children.

From the smiles on the children’s faces, it was evident that they were both entertained and delighted as stories and songs were shared in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday and his important contribution to children’s literature. The children sang “Happy Birthday” as they were presented a large cake decorated with Cat in the Hat to be enjoyed later in the day.

Though Theodor Geisel died on Sept. 24, 1991, Dr. Seuss continues to live on, inspiring generations of children of all ages to explore the joys of reading. Coincidentally, Theodor Geisel would have been 104 years old this year, the same age as Muskogee Day Nursery.

For information about free one-on-one tutoring for adults or basic ESL classes sponsored by the Muskogee Public Library, contact Janette Rose.

Contact Rhonda Lee for information concerning the Every Child Ready to Read program. Both may be reached at the Muskogee Public Library, 682-6657.

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