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NEA kicks off 14th annual Read Across America Day at Library of Congress

The First Lady, U.S. Education Secretary, NEA leaders, celebrites read to elementary students.


WASHINGTON - March 02, 2011 -

The National Education Association (NEA) today hosted a national reading kickoff event at the Library of Congress where First Lady Michelle Obama—along with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Librarian of Congress James Billington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and a host of film, television and sports personalities—read their favorite Dr. Seuss books to nearly 300 Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia elementary students. The celebration marked Dr. Seuss’ 107th birthday and kicked off NEA’s national Read Across America campaign, which will engage an estimated 45 million educators, parents and students nationwide.

“We are honored that the First Lady, Secretary Duncan, Mayor Gray and others could be with us to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and encourage our students to read,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “NEA’s Read Across America has become an annual tradition in schools and communities in every state. What began as a few reading parties 14 years ago has grown into a huge national literacy event. While we take a fun and lighthearted approach to our Read Across America celebrations, we do so with a serious purpose in mind: to encourage a love of reading. As educators, we know that children who read—and are read to—do better in school and in life.”

Gleeful first, second, and third graders, sporting the Cat in the Hat trademark red-and-white stovepipe hats, were treated to antics of Seuss characters Thing 1 and Thing 2 and the nearly seven-foot-tall Cat himself. Mrs. Obama and Secretary Duncan, who reminded their young audience that reading is enjoyable as well as educational, led students in a pledge to read every day.

“No one should underestimate the importance of reading. If adults read to children every day and encourage them to read on their own, they’ll be laying the foundation for success in school and in life,” Secretary of Education Duncan said. “I’m honored to join First Lady Michelle Obama, the National Education Association, and volunteers across the country for Read Across America. We should make sure we read across America every day.”

Other well-known readers participating in today’s event at the Library of Congress:

  • Donald Driver: Super Bowl champ and Green Bay Packers wide receiver
  • Camila Alves: Fashion designer, philanthropist and model
  • Carla Hall: Celebrity chef and Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars” contestant
  • Adrienne Maloof: Entrepreneur and philanthropist
  • Crystal Langhorne: WNBA Washington Mystics basketball player
  • Mike Isabella: Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars” contestant and chef/owner of Graffiato restaurant
  • Luke Russert: Congressional correspondent for NBC News
  • Mehcad Brooks: Actor and former HBO’s “True Blood” star
  • Norah O’Donnell: NBC’s “Today” show contributor and NBC News correspondent 
  • Jeremy Ray Valdez: Actor recently honored for his role in the 2009 drama, “La Mission”
  • Bridget Moynahan: Star of CBS's “Blue Bloods” and the upcoming film, “Battle: Los Angeles”
  • Padma Lakshmi: Award-winning author and Emmy-nominated host of Bravo's “Top Chef”
  • Jessica Alba: Actress and ambassador for the 1Goal movement to provide education to children in Africa

The Library of Congress event is just the beginning of the national reading extravaganza. NEA is once again revving up its engines to put the “across” in Read Across America. This year’s Cat-a-Van tour will bring the gift of reading to schoolchildren in Iowa and North Carolina and visit several of NEA’s Priority Schools in those states. NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, the Association’s flagship effort to help transform low-performing schools, encourages state and local affiliates, parents, community leaders, education advocates, policymakers, and businesses to work together to help students achieve. In past years, Cat-a-Vans have toured from coast to coast, visiting schoolchildren from Florida to Washington, New York to Arizona, and all points in between.

In Orlando, Fla., Universal Orlando Resort is hosting local elementary schools students at Seuss Landing in Universal’s Islands of Adventure for a day of Seussian storytelling and celebration. This party with a purpose will feature a cast of favorite Seuss characters along with Nick Anderson from the Orlando Magic. Other children visiting the park that day will be welcomed to join in the reading fun.

Across the country and around the world, deployed members of the military will don red-and-white stovepipe hats and read to their children and families. Thanks to Read Across America partner United Through Reading, the readings of the Seuss favorite, “Cat in the Hat,” will be recorded, and the DVDs will be shipped to service members’ loved ones back home.

NEA’s Read Across America—sponsored by the 3.2 million-member National Education Association, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., Random House Children’s Publishing and more than 50 national partnering organizations—promotes literacy year-round. But every year in March, around the time of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, NEA kicks off a round of reading parties designed to pay homage to the beloved children’s book author and get our nation’s young people excited about reading.

“Good reading skills are a long-term investment in a student’s success,” said Van Roekel. “NEA’s Read Across America brings students, parents, educatorsand the entire community together to share the joy of reading. NEA provides tools, resources and tips for parents and educators that make reading a fun and enjoyable experience so kids will keep turning pages.” 

A complete media kit, photos, video footage and other Seuss-tastic downloads are available to the media at www.nea.org/readacross. The website also offers reading tips, book lists and information on local events.

For more information on NEA’s Read Across America, visit: www.nea.org/readacross

For more information on NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, visit: http://neapriorityschools.org/

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Celeste Busser: (202) 822-7823, cfbusser@nea.org