NEA's Read Across America Cat-a-Van Tour Hits the Road

This week, three Cat-a-Vans will log more than 5,100 miles as they travel from coast to coast to celebrate NEA’s Read Across America and deliver an important message about reading—and brushing their teeth. NEA’s Cat-a-Van Reading Tour – made possible through a unique partnership between the National Education Association and Renaissance Dental – begins on Monday, February 25, and concludes on Friday, March 1—the official Read Across America Day.

The 2013 campaign with Renaissance Dental is designed to increase the awareness around good oral health and literacy habits by asking children and their parents to brush for two minutes, two times per day, and read for 20 minutes each day for a daily total of 24 minutes.

The 17 cities along the reading Cat-a-Van route include Phoenix, Ariz.; Boise, Idaho; Las Vegas, Nev.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Little Rock, Ark.; Sherwood, Ark.; Nashville, Tenn.; Hopkinsville, Ky.; Indianapolis, Ind.; East Cleveland, Ohio; Warren, Mich.; Lansing, Mich.; Charleston, W.V.; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Orlando, Fla.; and Miami, Fla.

Originally created as a one-day event to celebrate the joy of reading, Read Across America, sponsored by NEA and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., has grown into a nationwide initiative that promotes reading every day. More than 45 Million people young and old participate annually in the literacy program, now in its 16th year.

On Friday, a celebrity-studded cast of individuals will join hundreds of local students and the beloved Cat in the Hat at the historic New York Public Library in New York City to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and conduct a read aloud of his all-time classic book, The Cat in the Hat. Actor Uma Thurman will be one of the celebrity readers at the event. (You can watch a livestream of the event from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. EST)

Along the reading route this week, more than 20,000 books, toothbrushes, tooth timers and other goodies will be distributed to students to keep them reading and brushing at home. Renaissance Dental also will be distributing more than $30,000 in grants to public schools visited by the Cat-a-Van Reading Tour to help keep their libraries stocked with books and other reading inspiration.

Reports show that American students miss 51 million hours of school every year because of oral health problems. In fact, tooth decay continues to be the single most common chronic childhood illness—about five times more common than asthma.

“The sad part about these alarming statistics is that many of these oral health issues can be easily prevented and easily fixed,” said Rob Mulligan, president and CEO at Renaissance Dental. “Visiting the dentist and developing good brushing habits early on is key to preventing issues down the road. We feel that one of the best ways to communicate this message is by reaching out to educators, children and their parents through the classroom during the early educational years—and Renaissance Dental’s partnership with NEA’s Read Across America allows us to do this.”

“Students who are absent from class due to health problems are missing out on critical instruction time. That’s especially significant in early grades where reading skills are an important focus and create the building blocks of future learning,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Everyone from Horton to the Grinch can benefit from developing good oral health and reading habits. As Dr. Seuss famously said, ‘Teeth are always in style.’”

Visit NEA’s Read Across America for more information.