Puttin' on the Push for Read Across
ESPs donate books, organize readings, and serve green eggs and ham to honor Dr. Seuss.
Free books! Thousands of ’em! That’s how Marie Glass, chair of the NEA Rhode Island (NEARI) Education Support Professional Caucus, celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss. By doling out “gently-used” books to children in conjunction with NEA’s Read Across America (RAA).
Glass and other caucus members have given away more than 6,000 books since 2007. This year, they expect to exceed expectations thanks to the generosity of NEARI members, parents, and community organizations.
“We hope to go above the 3,000 total from last year,” says Glass, who recently retired as a behavior manager at an alternative high school. “We put on the push in January and February.”
Glass expects to hand out an astonishing 4,000 books during NEARI’s Read Across America & Great Public Schools Expo on February 27 at Warwick Mall, located in the heart of the state and accessible to all members. (It’s a small state.) In a staging area, education support professional (ESP) caucus members set up two long tables (one for lower grades, the other for upper) and encourage students to walk by and make their choices.
“People are very surprised that the books are free,” Glass says. “Kids come back year after year and tell us what books they chose the previous year.”
|How are you celebrating Read Across America Day? Share your ideas with your colleagues.|
Like Glass, ESPs across the nation are taking charge and getting charged up about Read Across. For some, like bus driver James Ojeda of Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia, the commitment to promoting RAA activities started decades ago.
“Sadly, many ESPs want to get involved but either do not know how to or are not asked,” says Ojeda, who has been reading Dr. Seuss to students for almost 20 years. “ESPs get a lot of respect from students . . . . so, bring them to the table during [RAA] discussions.”
Last year, Ojeda signed up nine bus drivers to read to students. This March, with the help of fellow ESPs with the Clayton County Education Association, he expects to get 20 drivers to read at 20 schools over two days.
“It is very important that students see and hear good reading from adults so they can follow their example,” Ojeda says. “If we don't invest time with our students, we will pay a heavy price in the future.”
The ESPs of Donna Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) agree. They're staging their first effort at a Read Across event this year.
After being elected president of Donna TSTA last May, Linda Estrada, a secretary at Sauceda Middle School, made a commitment to “members and the administration that our local would be more focused on education events, such as American Education Week and Read Across America.”
Estrada coordinated a reading event on March 2 at the public library with the mayor, school board, and city council members.
“I strongly believe that we must become partners with other organizations to make the community aware of Donna TSTA,” she says. “Read Across is a great opportunity to do that while promoting the value of reading books and doing well in school.”
Food Service Director Vicki Hughes of McLean County Public Schools in Kentucky will slip into her "Cat in the Hat" suit for several school visits where she’ll distribute RAA bookmarks and read to students along with school board members and others. She is also working with school officials and food service workers on cooking green eggs and ham at several schools.
“My cafeteria ladies have 'Cat in the Hat' shirts to wear for the occasion,” Hughes says. “In a small county with very little funding we do what we can.”
At the NEARI mall event, a performer wearing a “Cat in the Hat” costume will mingle with the crowd between raffles and readings. But the biggest draw, according to organizers – with the exception of the Cat, of course – are the ESP book tables.
“When we did not have a lot of books, we gave just one per child,” says Glass, who sees to it that every book is labeled with an NEARI insignia. “Now that we have thousands, I will not say ‘no’ to a kid who wants more.”
A Day Without Education Support Professionals (ESP)
See for yourself how important every education support professional is to the daily lives of our students and our schools. This poignant video illustrates the value of our work on so many levels. It was produced by Indiana member Mary Neylon.
RELATED LINKSWhat's your favorite book series? Take the Read Across America poll!
NEA's Education Support Professionals page