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Hats off to reading

Posted: March 10, 2009 12:32 a.m.
Updated: March 10, 2009 4:59 a.m.

Jamie Vela of Fair Oaks Ranch Community School wears a Cat in the Hat head piece as numerous volunteer readers came to the school to read to students March 2.

Children lined up outside the multipurpose room at Fair Oaks Elementary School on March 2, Dr. Seuss' birthday.

Each child had a red-and-white-striped paper hat on his or her or her head.

Throughout the day, celebrities and members of the Santa Clarita Valley community came to the school to read and participate in the Reading Across America Day.

The reading celebration takes place each year on or near March 2.

Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids and books, according to the National Education Association Web site.

Ken Newton, a teacher at Fair Oaks, organizes the event at the school every year.

"I invite people a year ahead of time," Newton said. "I start early ‘cause you never know who you're going to get. You get a lot of ‘no's,' but sometimes you strike a jackpot."

Readers included Rick Herbst, General Hospital actor; a few California Highway Patrol officers; Shelley Weinstein and Sheldon Wigdor, Sulphur Springs School district board members; Lindsey Shaw, ABC Family Channel and Nickelodeon actress; Alexa Nikolas, Nickelodeon actress; Councilwoman Marsha McLean; and retired NBA player Jerome "Pooh" Richardson.

"It's all about encouraging students to read," Newton said.

Herbst has participated in the event at Fair Oaks since his children were students. Now one is in junior high and the other is in high school.

"I really enjoy making every year something different," he said.

This was the first year Herbst brought kids up to the stage to read Dr. Seuss books alongside him.

"I wanted to engage them," he said. "Reading is easy. Engaging them is more powerful."

Herbst also enjoys seeing young kids' faces light up.

"I love them," he said. "There's nothing like making a kid laugh or engaging them and sparking their imagination."

Sixth-graders Meagan Hubbard, Lorel Sim, Denver Spencer and Elyssa Gorospe volunteered to act as escorts for guest readers.
Dr. Seuss' little helpers, so to speak.

"We know our way around school," Hubbard said. "So we help others."

Fair Oaks has participated in Read Across America Day since the school opened in 2002.

"It's a tradition," Principal Stump said. "We're fortunate to have community members come and read."

Wearing a Thing 1 and Thing 2 T-shirt, fifth-grader Carly Sutherland enjoyed when other people come to read during class.

"I like the different people who come - like a sheriff, a teacher, or an elder," she said. "It's cool hearing all the different books and hearing it differently from each person."

A longtime fan of Dr. Seuss, she said days like this bring back fond memories of her past.

"Dr. Seuss reminds me of kindergarten," she said.

Michelle Esposito of the California Highway Patrol senior volunteer coordinator and community outreach officer, was one of the school's guest readers.

"I've always liked Dr. Seuss books," Esposito said. "I had my senior volunteers come with me. We're all about community outreach to elementary students."

Esposito realizes the importance in encouraging young children to read.

"You read throughout your life and your career," she said.

Esposito read "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Wacky Wednesday" to two fifth-grade classes.

"Do you guys like green eggs and ham?" Esposito asked. "Has anyone ever tried green eggs and ham?"

A handful of fifth-grade student shot their hands in the air; others screamed "No!"

After she finished reading, she asked students what lesson they learned.

"Things are not what they seem," a student responded.


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