by Jacob Fischler | The Monitor
Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014 9:28 pm
EDINBURG — More than 300 elementary students donned floppy red-and-white striped hats Monday as they sat in their school’s gym and listened to a diverse lineup of speakers promoting the virtues of habitual reading.
But even before the program at Jefferson Elementary in Edinburg — which included readings of the Dr. Seuss favorites Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, and a “reader’s oath,” led by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg — the National Education Association kicked off a three-week nationwide tour with an appearance at another Hidalgo County elementary school.
The NEA, the largest teachers union in the United States, chose M. Rivas Elementary School in Donna as the launch site for its Read Across America campaign Monday morning. The afternoon program at Jefferson Elementary was the second stop.
“It’s nationwide, it actually kicks off on March the 3rd, but we are starting here in Texas; it’s like the preview, beginning part of Read Across America tour,” said Rita Haecker, the state president of the Texas State Teachers Association.
“We were really very blessed. It was a blessing,” Principal Ana Salinas said of the school being chosen as one of the initial sites for the campaign. “I mean, it’s a dream.”
Although all Jefferson students, ranging from pre-kindergarteners through fifth-graders, attended the event, it was particularly aimed at young children up to second grade.
Promoting early-childhood literacy lays the foundation for further learning, officials said.
“Reading opens the door to every other place in the universe,” said Princess Moss, a member of NEA executive committee. “And what we know is that reading is the foundation of success in other subject areas.”
Leaders planned the tour to coincide with Seuss’s birthday, March 2. Staff members at Jefferson dressed up as the characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, much to the bemusement of the students. And every child in attendance received both a copy of Cat in the Hat and a replica of the iconic hat.
They also received materials to keep up good oral health, as teeth-brushing is a subtheme of the Read Across America campaign.
“Reading is the foundation of a good education, and so is good oral health,” a news release promoting the event stated. “Across the country, students miss 51 million hours of school each year because of oral health problems.”
Renaissance Dental, an Indianapolis-based dental insurance company, sponsored the campaign.
“I think they’re both good habits to get into,” Haecker said of the dual promotion of reading and teeth-brushing.