‘The Lorax’ Stars Zac Efron and Danny DeVito Kick off Read Across America Day

The National Education Association today hosted a national reading kickoff event at The New York Public Library where actors Danny DeVito and Zac Efron read Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” to 300 New York public school elementary students. The celebration marked Dr. Seuss’ 108th birthday and kicked off NEA’s national Read Across America Day, which will engage an estimated 45 million educators, parents and students nationwide.

Every March 2, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, NEA members across the nation host school and community events designed to pay homage to the beloved children’s book author and to get the nation’s young people excited about reading.

“Every year on NEA’s Read Across America Day, the imaginations of children across the country are ignited when they open up a good book,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “‘The Lorax’ is not only entertaining to read, but it also highlights the importance of protecting our air, land and water. Our students deserve to learn in a safe, healthy environment.”

“Dr. Seuss not only teaches kids about taking care of our planet with ‘The Lorax,’ he helps them learn the fundamentals of reading through all of his books,” said DeVito. “I’m so happy to be a part of Read Across America’s efforts to spread these timeless messages to children throughout the country.” DeVito and Efron, along with Ed Helms, Taylor Swift and Betty White lend their vocal talents to Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s animated adventure Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and are all co-chairs of this year’s Read Across America celebration, a first for the NEA program.

Gleeful third graders from New York’s public schools, sporting the Lorax’s trademark yellow mustache, were welcomed to the event by The New York Public Library President and CEO Dr. Anthony W. Marx. DeVito and Efron delighted the children with a reading from “The Lorax.” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel led a question and answer session with the actors and students. The children’s favorite fuzzy orange character (and now movie star), the Lorax, surprised the students with an onstage appearance. DeVito also led the students in the Read Across America pledge, asking them to promise to read each day and each night.

“As a kid, I remember thinking, ‘What would it be like to go on this big adventure and learn what the Once-ler knows?’ Now here I am, two decades later, voicing Ted in Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” said Efron. “It’s an honor to not only be a part of this movie, but to work with the National Education Association’s Read Across America to inspire the love of reading in millions of kids.”

New York public school students wear the trademark Lorax yellow mustaches at the National Education Associations's Read Across America kickoff event at The New York Public Library. Photo: Jason Kempin

The event concluded with New York’s well known PS22 Chorus, an elementary school chorus from Public School 22 in Graniteville, Staten Island, singing the film’s theme song, “Let It Grow.”

The New York Public Library event was the culmination of a two-week national reading tour. NEA also revved up its engines for the first ever “NEA’s Read Across America Tour – Driven by Mazda”– a cross-country tour that visited public schools, Mazda dealerships and other stops to bring the gift of reading to thousands of public school students. Through April 2, consumers test driving any Mazda vehicle at a local dealership will enable Mazda to donate $25 per test drive to public school libraries nationwide, up to a total of $1 million. Administered by the NEA Foundation, this donation will provide vital funds to help the nation’s struggling public school libraries.

NEA’s Read Across America is once again co-sponsored by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (“Cat in the Hat” is the Read Across America Day mascot).

Since 1997, NEA’s Read Across America has attracted some of the biggest names in politics, entertainment and sports to help children discover the joy of reading. In addition to First Lady Michelle Obama, past celebrity participants have included Jessica Alba, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, Mehcad Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alex Rodriguez, Serena Williams, Selena Gomez, Shaquille O’Neal and many others.

“This national celebration is not just about one hour or one day of reading, it is about cultivating a lifetime of good reading habits that will translate into academic success,” said Van Roekel. “NEA’s Read Across America brings students, parents, educators and the entire community together to share the joy of reading.”