Monday marked Dr. Seuss’ 116th birthday, and guest readers visited two local elementary schools to mark the occasion by reading his words aloud.

“Education, it’s a partnership,” Mitchell Elementary School Principal Shari Hedstrom said. “It’s a partnership with the school staff, with the parents, with the community and with the kids, and I love how we do have some community folks that want to come in and be a part of investing in our kids.”

The guest readers went into pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade classrooms at Mitchell Elementary in Bryan and River Bend Elementary School in College Station to read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, who was born on March 2, 1904. Each class got to keep a copy of the book to add to the classroom library.

Presented by the United Way of the Brazos Valley and Baylor Scott & White Health, the event was called United Way Reading Day. Nationally, Dr. Seuss’ birthday also marks the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, established in 1998, which is described as “the nation’s largest celebration of reading.”

The United Way aims to help community members see how engaged the students are in reading, literacy and learning, and let them get involved.

“It’s really fun to be able to get them excited about reading and just to interact with some of the local classrooms,” said Julie Addison, office manager at Baylor Scott & White and guest reader at River Bend Elementary.

Hedstrom previously taught secondary English and stressed the importance of establishing a foundation of literacy at the elementary level.

“We need to help kiddos develop a love of learning and just a passion for learning,” she said, noting children’s literature spans all genres from classic literature to graphic novels. “I want kids to love reading, and I want it to be authentic reading. That’s really what I push for. So it’s the mechanics of knowing how to do it, but then it’s choosing to do it.”

Hedstrom mentioned classic books from her childhood, including To Kill a Mockingbird, for how it speaks “to how are we a good citizen, how are we a good family member, how are we a good neighbor?”

One of her current favorite children’s books is What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, in which a boy learns how an idea can change the world.

“You can really have some great conversations with kids about the ideas that they have,” she said.

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