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Read Across America Cat-a-Van: Week 2

The nation's largest reading event comes to Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio

Michigan Celebrates Read Across America Day

Dennis Van Roekel reads Green Eggs and Ham

“Can you say, ‘Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss’?” asked NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

Yes, you can! And yes, they did! Maybe not in a boat, nor with a goat, but 45 million students, parents, and educators celebrated NEA’s Read Across America this year, “in schools like this one, and also in libraries, community centers, and even in Congress and the White House today,” Van Roekel told students at Roosevelt School in Livonia, Michigan, on Monday morning....Read More.

Green Eggs and Ham in Grand Rapids

Thing 1 and Thing 2 rev up young readers at Vandenberg Elementary School. Photo by Jati Lindsay/NEA

The connection between school attendance and student success is clear: children can't learn if they miss out on instruction. But on Tuesday, March 4, when NEA's Read Across America Cat-a-Van tour swung into Grand Rapids, Michigan, students from ten schools with the district's best attendance rates got an extra treat.

More than 300 students from those ten schools, plus three special education centers, helped NEA ratchet up its celebration of reading. Wearing special Seuss-tastic-style stovepipe hats, which they will keep, the children settled in for a reading of Green Eggs in Ham by Grand Rapids Education Association president Paul Helder, a history and political science teacher.

His plan on Tuesday? "To inspire a love of reading," he said, in the same way that his colleagues do every day, in every school across the district.

Photo by Jati Lindsay/NEA

As part of the three-week long Cat-a-Van tour, which was co-sponsored by Renaissance Dental, thousands of books and hats have been distributed to public school students. In Grand Rapids, Renaissance Dental also provided $1,000 to the Grand Rapids Education Association to stock local school library shelves with new books and reading materials.

Last year, in Grand Rapids, educators and parents committed to a partnership to get more students in school every day. Research shows that missing just two days of school a month has an adverse affect on achievement, and yet about 10 percent of students nationwide miss more than a month each year. Those students are much more likely to eventually dropout.

"You have the best attendance! You are special!" Grand Rapids superintendent Teresa Weatherall-Neal told the assembled students on Tuesday. "Your principals and teachers appreciate that you come to school every day."

Indianapolis Welcomes the Cat-a-Van

The three-week long NEA Read Across America Cat-a-Van tour hit its midpoint on Wednesday, March 5, with a stop at two schools in Indianapolis. Emerging from a deep freeze and undoubtedly looking forward to Spring like everyone else, hundreds of students at Francis W. Parker Elementary and Sidener Academy were treated to a visit by the famous feline – the Cat in the Hat – accompanied by NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle, Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith, and Indianapolis Education Association President Rondalyn Cornett, all there to bolster the love of reading.

Along the reading route from Who-ville to Indianapolis, NEA and the 2014 Read Across sponsor, Renaissance Dental are bringing books, oral health items, and other giveaways to children in need. And both schools received a grant to keep its library filled with books and other reading inspiration, courtesy of Renaissance Dental.

“Indiana students are thrilled to be a part of this year’s Read Across America tour,” said Meredith. “School programs that support good health and encourage reading for our youngest students are at the top of our list every year.”

The Cat-a-Van’s visit couldn’t have been better timed for the students at Francis W. Parker Elementary, who next week have to take the ISTEP, the statewide test for reading, writing, and mathematics. With anxiety running a bit high, every bit of motivation to get excited about learning and reading helps.

“Show what you know! You are going to do well next week!” Principal Lauren Franklin urged students, who had donned their special stovepipe reading hats, at the assembly. Becky Pringle and Meredith both talked about not only the fun of reading but how it can help students achieve in and out of school. Pringle then entertained the students with an energetic reading of the Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham. The celebration continued later in the day at Sidener Academy, a magnet school for high ability students and a well-known success story in Indianapolis.

“Wherever students want to go, good reading skills can help make the journey easier and fun,” said Pringle. “Because NEA’s Read Across America helps make reading fun, students want to be in the company of good books—again and again.”

Fostering a Love of Reading in Ohio

Week Two of the Cat-a-Van tour takes a moment to pose. Photo by Jati Lindsay/NEA

The tour rolled into Ohio on Thursday, where students at Tussing Elementary School in Reynoldsburg and Hilliard Horizon Elementary School in Columbus got some Seuss-style reading inspiration.

Joining the Cat in the Hat and friends on this stop was David Tjaden, NEA Student Program Chair, and Becky Higgins, a first-grade teacher now serving as president of the Ohio Education Association.

“Who likes to read books?” Tjaden asked the students gathered in the gymnasium at Hilliard Horizon, as hands enthusiastically shot up. Tjaden then led one of the read-ins that have been a highlight of the Cat-a-Van stops.

Enjoying a the Read Across spirit in Ohio. Photo by Jati Lindsay/NEA

“As a future educator, I want my students to have a great foundation with reading skills they’ll use throughout their lives,” said Tjaden. “What’s great about NEA’s Read Across America is that it doesn’t just give children the reading skills they need, it makes reading fun and enjoyable. As a result, there’s a renewed excitement for learning, and today’s events with our Cat-a-Van tour remind us why we all want to be teachers in the first place.”


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