First Lady Kicks Off NEA’s Read Across America
March 2, 2010 — Nearly 300 young students from Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., gathered today at the Library of Congress to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day with First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
After singing a rock-n-roll version of the alphabet and learning how to be a human beat box, the students and their teachers eagerly greeted NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, the first lady and Secretary Duncan.
The first lady encouraged everyone to become strong readers, saying it will help them do everything from dreaming to thinking better. She engaged the youngsters with her reading of “The Cat in the Hat,” and followed up with a question and answer session. The students learned that “Where the Wild Things Are” is a favorite book in the White House and that Mrs. Obama’s favorite thing to do is to “snuggle up” with her daughters, Sasha and Malia, once they get home from school each day.
“On Dr. Seuss’ birthday I think it’s fitting that we celebrate the significance of reading,” Obama said. ”As parents it’s important that we continue to highlight its benefits. Reading not only brings families together but it prepares our children for a lifetime of learning,”
The students then joined Van Roekel, The Cat in the Hat and Suess characters Thing 1 and Thing 2 in reciting the “Reader’s Oath,” pledging “I promise to read each day and each night. I know it’s the key to growing up right.”
After the program finished in the Great Hall, the students and their red-and –white-striped stovepipe hats broke into smaller reading groups with NEA leaders, Secretary Duncan, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO) and Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI). Stephanie Sgroi’s first grade class from Brent Elementary in Washington, D.C., read with NEA Executive Committee member Len Paolillo.
“My kids loved the event,” Sgroi said. “We always talk about how important it is to read at our school. It’s nice to see our country’s leaders reinforce that message.”