Read Across America Tour Rolls Into Oklahoma
By Brenda Álvarez
After covering almost 800 miles of ground, NEA’s Read Across America Cat-a-Van Tour 1 capped off a week’s worth of reading celebrations on Friday in Oklahoma with two school visits.
Steed Elementary School in Midwest City was the first stop of the Oklahoma tour.
Firefighters from Midwest City Fire Department Ladder 2 passed out the red and white stovepipe hats to nearly 400 students, who received a special reading from David Tjaden, NEA’s student chair. Tjaden, who represents 60,000 student members at colleges and universities studying to become educators, read from The Cat in the Hat.
Special guest readers included Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, and Roland Branham, officer for the Midwest City Police Department. The pair read from Green Eggs and Ham.
Branham was excited to join in Read Across America, “Usually, when we get ‘called’ it’s because someone is having a bad day, but being a part of events like this is great because we’re able to share with the community in good times.”
In the afternoon, the tour made the 40-mile trek to Horace Mann Elementary School in the city of Shawnee. Former First Lady Kim Henry served as a special guest reader.
“It’s very important to bring reading events like Read Across America into schools. There’s no more important gift than literacy,” she says, adding that reading is the one skill set that can take students through school with a tremendous boost.
For Hampton, an elementary school teacher with more than 30 years of experience, Read Across America helps students develop a life-long love of reading by making it fun, which currently seems to be a missing ingredient for many students.
An Oklahoma law that was enacted in 1998 is now triggering some angst among students, parents, and educators. The Reading Sufficiency Act requires that every 3rd grader within the state’s public school system take a reading test come April. If they don’t pass, students will be held back from entering the 4th grade.
“By focusing on high-stakes testing, Oklahoma has taken the fun out of reading,” says Hampton. “We must put it back in for our students.”
And fun was most certainly had at both elementary schools, where students were visited by the mischievous Thing 1 and Thing 2, who tugged at a jumbo-sized check worth $500 before presenting it to the schools. The elementary schools plan to purchase additional books for its media centers.
Tonya Fenimore, a representative of Renaissance Dental, was also on hand to promote good reading habits and clean teeth. “If you can’t come to school because your tooth is hurting you’re going to have trouble learning…and it’s important that [students] come to school every day,” she says.
Earlier in the week, the NEA’s Read Across America Cat-a-Vans started out in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and made its way north via Donna, Edinburg, San Antonio, and Austin, Tex. In total, Tour 1 Cat-a-Vans visited 10 cities and distributed $5,000 for each school’s library.
Originally created as a one-day event to celebrate the joy of reading, Read Across America was founded 17 years ago. It has since grown into a nationwide event that promotes reading every day.
With Dr. Seuss’s March 2nd birthday falling on Sunday this year, the official Read Across America Day will be celebrated on Mon., March 3rd, enabling schools across the country to participate in the reading fun.
Read Across America Tour Kicks Off in South Texas