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From Phoenix to Little Rock: Cat-a-Van Tour 1

Bringing reading fun to schools in Boise, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque.

With red stovepipe hats and excited smiles, young students at Justine Spitalny and Glenn Downs Elementary Schools were the first in the West to be visited by the Cat in the Hat, along with friends Thing 1 and Thing 2, as part of NEA's Read Across America Cat-a-Van tour.

Sponsored by Renaissance Dental, the tour kicked off in Phoenix, Arizona, on Monday morning, with NEA Executive Committee member Paula Monroe leading the reading celebration. The students joined Monroe in reading Green Eggs and Ham and learning a new equation to keep them healthy: two minutes of brushing, two times a day and reading for 20 minutes equals a healthy body and mind. They also pledged with their principals, Dr. Rachel Saunders of Spitalny and Jane Ardell of Downs to "read each day and night and promise to brush to keep their teeth white."

But the students got really excited when the Cat in the Hat came out to join them.

Posing for photos and handing out high fives, the Cat in the Hat topped off a great morning during which the schools received $1,000 each from Renaissance Dental for their school libraries. In addition to the funding, every student got a goody bag filled with a Dr. Seuss book, toothbrush, two-minute timer for brushing and more.

"The kids love this activity! They love their hats. They love their books. And they really like their toothbrush and their little timer," said Monroe.

"It was good day for thinking about reading and brushing your teeth and being healthy," added Victor, a student at Justine Spitalny Elementary School.

Big Welcome in Boise

Thanks to tour sponsor Renaissance Dental, Grace Jordan Elementary School in Boise, Idaho, received $1,000 for their school library. Pictured l - r: Paula Monroe, NEA Executive Committee, Andrew Rath, Boise Education Association President, Kari Overall, Idaho member for the NEA Board of Directors, Toni Barry, Librarian and Grace Jordan and Penni Cyr, Idaho Education Association President. Photo: Amy BuffenbargerThere may have been ice on the road in Boise, Idaho, but that didn't stop NEA's Read Across America Cat-A-Van tour from visiting Grace Jordan Elementary School on Tuesday morning.

About 350 students, kindergarten through third grade, packed the auditorium. During the one-hour show, the young readers celebrated the importance of reading with Paula Monroe, NEA Executive Committee member, Penni Cyr, Idaho Education Association President, Boise Education Association President Andrew Rath and their principal, Tim Lowe.

The team then traveled to Jefferson Elementary School. Along with Principal Joan Bigelow, Monroe, Cyr and Rath introduced the Cat in the Hat to the students and explained how taking care of their teeth keeps them healthy and better able to learn and build strong literacy habits.

Bright Lights, Seuss City

NEA's Read Across America Cat-a-Van tour made its third western stop in Las Vegas on Wednesday. First up for a surprise appearance by the Cat in the Hat was George E. Harris Elementary school. And the Cat in the Hat wasn't the only special guest. Rob Mulligan, President and CEO of Renaissance Dental, the sponsor of the tour, joined Paula Monroe, NEA Executive Committee and Ruben Murillo, President of the Clark County Education Association to explain the importance of brushing 2 times a day for 2 minutes each. To stay healthy and grow even smarter, students were also encouraged to add 20 minutes of reading a day to that equation.

Next up in Las Vegas was Howard Wasden Elementary School. As always, Thing 1 and Thing 2 got students riled up and ready to celebrate reading. Wasden Principal Scott DuChateau welcomed Monroe, Vikki Courtney, Vice President of the Clark County Education Association, to the school and their famous feline friend to join students in the day's Seuss-tastic activities.

Both Las Vegas Schools received an extra honor from Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom, when they each were presented with a declaration of excellence because of their commitment to fostering a love of reading.

Bright Lights, Seuss City. Cat-a-Van Visits Vegas

Moving On to New Mexico

Somewhere between Las Vegas and Los Lunas, New Mexico, the western Cat-a-Van tour said goodbye to school secretary and NEA Executive Committee member Paula Monroe and picked up Greg Johnson, a music teacher and NEA Executive Committee member.

Johnson's first stop with the tour was at Desert View Elementary School, followed by a visit to Ann Parish Elementary. Both schools are in Los Lunas, New Mexico.

Located 25 miles south of Albuquerque, Los Lunas is a rural area that serves a large number of students living in poverty.

"We're in a rural part of New Mexico, and my students don't get to experience a lot of things, said Elena Trodden, principal at Ann Parish Elementary School. "For NEA and NEA-New Mexico to come here, it's huge for my kids."

Each school received $1,000 to purchase books for their libraries, and students received goody bags, thanks to NEA's partnership with Renaissance Dental. They learned the 2 x 2 + 20 equation - brush your teeth for two minutes, two times per day and read for 20 minutes each day - and enjoyed an animated reading of "Green Eggs and Ham" by Johnson.

"Dr. Seuss books are fun, they're quirky, they rhyme and kids who don't normally feel good about reading can feel good about reading a Dr. Seuss book," said Mary McGowan, an IEP Facilitator at Ann Parish Elementary and NEA-Los Lunas President.

And while the educational parts of the program leave a lasting impression, it's the characters that really make NEA's Read Across America fun for the students.

"I like Thing 1 and Thing 2 because they came to visit us and they were very nice," exclaimed Nicholas, a student at Desert View Elementary.

"The Cat-a-Vans are a great part of NEA's Read Across America experience," explained Johnson. "We go out to schools, we give the kids a red and white hats and a book, and we let them know that reading is fun. The Cat-a-Vans allow that excitement and energy to come through. If a student is excited about grabbing a book and reading, they're going to get hooked. And they are going to read some more."

Last Stop, Little Rock

The last day of the tour was full of end-of-the-week excitement.

Students at Sherwood Elementary in Sherwood, Arkansas, had spent the week decorating the hallways and cafeteria with Dr. Seuss-inspired artwork.

"The program excites the boys and girls and gives them a reason for wanting to learn more through reading," explained Josephine Brazil, the principal at Sherwood.

After being welcomed by Brazil, Arkansas Education Association President Donna Morey introduced Greg Johnson and his trademark high-five to the crowd of young readers. Cindy Matthey, the literacy instruction facilitator at Sherwood and Sandra Guthrie, librarian, lead the students in taking the Reader's and Brusher's oath.

From Sherwood, the Cat-a-Van traveled to the brand new Children's Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. Not yet open to the public, students from Franklin and Landmark Elementary Schools were the first to enjoy the new space.

As with all the stops on NEA's Read Across America Cat-a-Van tour, each of the schools received $1,000 for their school libraries in addition to goody bags filled with books, toothbrushes, timers and more for students.

Accompanying students from Landmark was Laura Montgomery, a homeschool consultant at the school and president of NEA's National Council of Education Support Professionals (ESPs). Celebrating reading also involves celebrating the staff at schools who get students ready to learn each day.

"Support staff play a huge roll because we put smiles on children’s faces and make sure all of their needs are met before they enter into the classroom," said Montgomery.

Oh, the Places We'll Go

Check out our Read Across America Partners and Supporters 


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Follow NEA's 2016 multi-city reading tour!

DALLAS: Feb 26, 2016

NASHVILLE: Feb 29, 2016

PHOENIX: March 1, 2016

SAN DIEGO: March 2, 2016

DENVER: March 3, 2016

ATLANTA: March 4, 2016