Dr. Seuss prescribes a day of whimsy at Park City schools
It was a day of jubilation. The students gathered and read about the elephant that heard a who, and about fishes that were one, two, red and blue. They pondered sneetches with stars on their bellies and sneetches with none, and were entertained by a hat-wearing feline and his sidekicks, Thing 2 and Thing 1.
They liked the books here, and they liked the books there. On this day, it seemed, the students would like the books anywhere.
For the elementary schools in the Park City School District, March 2 was one of the best days of the year. They participated in the annual Read Across America Day, a nationwide event honoring the anniversary of the day of birth of Theodor Geisel — more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. Students hunkered down with their favorite books, and dozens of volunteers from the community came into classrooms to read to groups of children.
Students and teachers at Parley’s Park Elementary School were among those who went all out to honor the popular children’s author. Hallways were lined with Truffula Trees — from "The Lorax" — that students had made. Many teachers dressed up like characters from "The Cat in the Hat."
It was a celebration, they explained, that everyone had been waiting for.
"It’s one of those days that we can set aside the traditional academics for a minute and just enjoy the creativity of Dr. Seuss," said Stacey Harris, a second-grade teacher who wore a blue wig and led her class in renditions of songs from the musical "Seussical." "It’s one of the highlights of our spring."
Melissa Bott, another second-grade teacher at Parley’s Park, also took the festivities to the next level. Students in her classroom gathered into tents to hear from the volunteer readers and eat Seuss-themed snacks, such as green eggs and ham as well as cookies in the shape of the hat from "Cat in the Hat."
"We are very busy, and it can get a little exhausting but the kids look forward to it," she said. "They’re dressing up, we have food that has themes to it, and everyone has a great time. We try to keep it as educational as possible, but because we are so academic-based all year, it’s always nice to have something to celebrate — especially Dr. Seuss, because there’s not an author that’s more fun and crazy."
But more than fun and games, it was an opportunity for the students to learn. Several teachers said they would use Dr. Seuss’s books throughout March to teach students concepts in subjects such as math and art. Additionally, the second grade is set to perform "Seussical" for parents March 29.
"We try to link all the Dr. Seuss books to other curriculum areas," teacher Kara Wales said. "So we’ll be doing some math and graphing and literacy with rhyming and nonsense words. And it teaches them a love of literature. Students get a lot out of it."
The students weren’t the only ones cherishing the day, however. The volunteers were just as eager to celebrate Dr. Seuss.
Jen Billow, events and marketing director for the Park City Education Foundation — which donates one book to the schools for each volunteer who reads to students — said Read Across America Day is one of the most fun ways to get involved at the elementary schools.
"We love literacy, and that’s obviously important," she said. "But when I come back in — my kids are grown up — it’s just so fun to read these books that you remember from when your kids were little or when you were little. And the kids love it. You’re looking at their faces, and they’re so excited and so happy. It’s a really easy thing to be a part of, then want to come back and do every year."
A Parkite who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13 is giving scholarships and internships to three first-generation graduates from PCHS.