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The City Journals

A Reading Celebration at Oakwood Elementary

Apr 07, 2016 12:53PM ● By Stephanie Lauritzen

By Stephanie Lauritzen | [email protected]

Cottonwood - Holladay - On March 2, teachers at Oakwood Elementary School celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday by participating in “Read Across America Day,” a nationwide reading celebration organized by the National Education Association. Students enjoyed a read-a-thon, Dr. Seuss-inspired art projects and debating the age-old question from “The Cat in the Hat”: “Well what would you do, if your mother asked you?” 

For first-grade teacher Tammy Giles, celebrating Dr. Seuss offered students an opportunity to read for pleasure and enjoyment.  

“I make sure that we read for enjoyment every day. Students need to know that reading is important for learning, but it is also wonderful to travel many places through a book,” Giles said. 

Fellow first-grade teacher Tanja Roller encouraged her students to honor Dr. Seuss’s sense of whimsy and imagination by coming to school in their pajamas and by bringing along their favorite stuffed animal as a reading companion. 

“They were so cute reading Dr. Seuss books to their stuffed animals and each other during this time,” Roller said. “My students’ enthusiasm was fantastic all day and extremely contagious. Even my struggling readers responded well because they could read most of the Dr. Seuss books.”

“Read Across America Day” is one of many initiatives Oakwood teachers use to instill a love of reading in their students. Teachers reward students by choosing a “Rock Star Reader” from each class every month. “Rock Star Readers” enjoy a day of eating lunch at a special table with principal Dianne Phillips and by earning a certificate, treat and inflated guitar. As “rock stars,” their photo is displayed for the month in the lunchroom. Giles believes this helps “get the other students excited about meeting their reading goals for the following month.” 

Beyond school programs, both Giles and Roller believe parents play an active role in helping their children learn to love reading. Giles notes that “parents can demonstrate a love of reading by enjoying books with their children and by being an example of a person who reads for enjoyment and as a person who reads to learn new information. Students should have a set time for practicing take-home books and they should also enjoy nightly bedtime stories.”

When working with a reluctant or struggling reader, Roller offers the following advice for parents. 

“The important thing is to stay positive and do not give up,” she said. “Never say anything negative or discouraging. We are all different and learn at different paces. I have seen students struggle at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year they have surpassed those students who ‘got it’ earlier. It takes time, and when it happens you will be amazed and proud.” 

Wondering what books to read at home with your kids? Roller and Giles both recommend continuing the Dr. Seuss celebration at home. Roller loves “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

 “I just love the message it gives,” she said.

Giles recommends several Seuss classics for different reasons. She fondly remembers reading “Green Eggs and Ham” to her own daughter but loves “The Sneetches” for reminding students “that everyone doesn’t need to like the same things or look alike to be important.”

Regardless of what books they choose, Giles and Roller hope parents remember the value of reading at home. Giles suggests helping kids look forward to reading at home by creating “a reading corner for their children so they can have a comfortable place to read. This area should include a bookcase of books and magazines, a comfortable chair or pillows, and great lightning. Parents should also take their children to the library often.”

While reading each night may not seem critical to parents of busy children, Roller reminds parents to find time for reading.

“Try not to skip reading 20 minutes each night. If students read just 20 minutes, they will have read 3,600 minutes a school year. Five minutes equals only 900 minutes, and one minute each day is only 180 minutes for a school year. It all adds up.”