Park City’s celebration of Seuss aims to inspire youngsters
Students explore the places they’ll go through reading
March 7, 2017
Perhaps no Dr. Seuss quote was more fitting as elementary schools throughout the Park City School District celebrated the beloved children's author last week: "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go."
That line, from Seuss's "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut," perfectly encapsulates the mission of Read Across America Day, an national effort every March 2 to encourage youngsters to read in honor of Seuss's birthday. For the fourth year in a row, Park City students got in on the fun, as dozens of members of the community spent the day reading to classes and teachers livened up their classrooms in Seuss-world décor.
At McPolin Elementary School, Seuss's spirit was alive and well. Students gathered into tents and blanket forts in the library and cracked open their favorite books. Later in the gym, they played a handful of Seuss-themed games. The day lived up to the excitement that had been building all week.
Heidi Stanger, the school's librarian and organizer of the festivities, said an event like Read Across America can go a long way to fostering a love of learning and reading in children. That's one of the most important things for educators to instill in their students, and an effort seemingly everyone in Park City, from parents to community members, gets behind every year on March 2.
"You go from the basics and it just builds from there," she said. "But if you can create it at a young age, then you don't have kids that become jaded, and you don't have to fight against that. Having a community that supports that is tremendously valuable. It makes it so much easier."
Park City's Read Across America celebration is made possible each year through funding from the Park City Education Foundation, which coordinates the event and provides hundreds of new books for each school's library. Jen Billow, associate director of communications and development for the PCEF, said it's one of the organization's favorite days of the year.
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"It's so corny but it's super heartwarming when you see the tents here (at McPolin) or you go into Parley's and you see the (decorations) or you go into Trailside or Jeremy and everyone is in their 'Cat in the Hat' hat," she said. "It's something that started with a small grant but has turned into a super fun day. It means a lot that it's gone this far."
One of the primary missions of Read Across America is to show students that reading is fun and that it doesn't always have to be tied to schoolwork. Billow said that message fits perfectly with the district's other initiatives to ensure students are reading at grade level by third grade, such as a pilot program in McPolin aimed at dyslexic children that has spurred reading growth in other students, as well.
Getting students reading at grade level is the key to unlocking their learning potential, Billow said.
"Intuitively we know that, but across the board, if you can't read, you can't even go on to do STEM or anything else," she said. "And if you're not on grade level by third grade, you tend to be behind through the whole rest of the way. So the education foundation and the district are doing a lot of things in English-language arts to make sure our kids are ready."
Stanger said that what really makes Read Across America is the support of the community. Not only does it foster an environment of partnership between the school system and the community, but students look up to the volunteers, ranging from firefighters to employees at Park City Mountain Resort, who read to their classrooms.
"Having the adults and parents and community members here is important because the students are associating the reading with them," she said. "That makes it a really neat experience. It's very much a mentorship, even if that isn't the direct purpose and the students aren't thinking about it that way."