Photo by Nanci Hutson.
Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli selected the story book, “A Boy and a Jaguar.”
Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard picked the chapter book, “The Young Man and the Sea.”
Prescott Fire Acting Capt. Conrad Jackson’s reading choice was “Miss Daisy is Crazy.”
These three local “celebrities” joined 16 other civic and community leaders on Thursday at Taylor Hicks Elementary School to read to the school’s pre-K to fourth-grade classes as part of national “Read Across America Day.” The program that celebrates and promotes literacy for all ages was launched by the National Education Association in 1997. The first event coincided with the March 2 birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who died in 1991.
At Taylor Hicks, children and guest readers were invited to wear specialty hats for the celebration, and while there were some pink flamingos, polar bears and fruit hats, many were a tribute to the late, zany poet whose words are still as beloved today as they were when he wrote those decades ago.
For fourth-grader Kayla Jackson, Read Across America Day proved particularly special because she got to sit in the lap of the guest reader for her class as he read aloud a story of a mystery teacher who purports to be unable to read, write and do math so as to get her students to teach her those lessons. The reader was none other than her father, who donned a crooked, red-and-white striped Dr. Seuss cap as he entertained Dennis Goldsmith’s class with the antics of “Miss Daisy” and her students.
As he read aloud the often amusing tale, with lots of little twists likely to encourage students to pick up their own copy as he wasn’t able to read to the very end, Jackson’s dimples deepened as his voice captured the characters and captivated his young audience.
“I thought it was fun,” said student Kaylee Goldsmith, whose father, Dennis, is the class’ teacher.
Kaylee admits she wasn’t always an avid reader, but once she discovered chapter books she was hooked.
“Reading helps you learn,” Kaylee said.
For Jackson, the chance to come and read was a special treat: he is a Taylor Hicks alum and Kayla is the youngest of his three children to attend the elementary school.
And no fire calls interrupted his story.
Down the hall in a third-grade class, Howard introduced a story to the children called, “The Young Man and the Sea,” a story that captured his attention because the boy, who is the main character, loves fishing — and before he became an educator Howard worked as a crab fisherman in Alaska.
Though he could give the students only a taste of the story given time constraints, Howard introduced to the class a 12-year-old boy facing a whole bunch of struggles — his mother died, his fisherman father is so depressed he won’t get off the couch, and their boat just sank in the harbor.
Not to mention the boy is the target of a gang of bullies. But this boy rises up to his challenges in inspirational ways. Howard encouraged the children to consider checking it out of the library.
Student Ari Federwisch-Rivera said she thought Howard’s selection might be worth her time.
“Reading is fun. I like to just sit in my bed and do it,” Ari said.
Taylor Hicks Principal Kelsey Secor was delighted so many community leaders opted to join in the school’s festivities. She said it is good for children to see adults read, too.
The district’s two other elementary schools, Lincoln and Abia Judd, are also celebrating the annual event.
“You’re never too old to read,” Secor said.
Reading interventionist Karen Bender said the purpose of this day is to showcase for children that reading is fun and that people from all walks of life are readers.
“The mayor – how cool is that?” Benson concluded.
Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.