Photo Gallery: Read Across America Day at Crosby Elementary School
They came bearing books on Monday. They came sharing words. It was "Read Across America Day," or hadn't you heard?
Schools and libraries around and about Berkshire County celebrated author Dr. Seuss' 110th birthday by observing the National Education Association's annual Read Across America Day. It was estimated that more than a hundred community volunteers visited schools for the occasion, to read books by Dr. Seuss and other favorite authors of children's literature.
At Farmington River Elementary School in Otis, fifth-grade teacher Chris Keller, school librarian Kathy Bracken, and PTA parent Kathy Couch helped organize a day's worth of activities, from having students read the Read Across America Day pledge in the morning over the school's PA system to having upper-grade level students read to younger kids. Art teacher Laura Catullo also led the creation of special Seuss-inspired projects.
Becket Washington School, in addition to welcoming community readers on Monday, will support first-grade students later this month in reading and writing book reports on Dr. Seuss books of each student's choice.
At C.T. Plunkett School in Adams and Capeless Elementary School in Pittsfield, some Seuss-like characters were spotted roaming the halls, including the Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Eric K. Lamoureaux, school community coordinator for Crosby Elementary School in Pittsfield, said Read Across America Day has multiple benefits, from promoting literacy community-wide to connecting students with local adult role models and mentors.
"I ask volunteers ahead of time to plan to stay in the classroom after reading to talk a little bit about themselves and what they do and to take questions from students. It helps students to know the volunteers and ask them why it was worth their time to read to them," Lamoureaux said.
Assistant District Attorney Dana Parsons read "Emily Breaks Free," by Linda Talley and Andra Chase to Crosby first graders in Sally Capeless' class. The story revolves around a quartet of pets and touches on themes of bullying, as the plot unfolds along Boston's historic Freedom Trail.
"It's a nice book for first graders," said Capeless, whose class engaged in a conversation about bullying with Parsons after the reading.
Berkshire County Sheriff Tom Bowler braved the pronunciation of phrases like "Hawtch-Hawtcher bee watcher," "piffulous pay" and "Throm-dim-bu-lator" while reading Dr. Seuss' "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" to fifth graders in Jeanne Nailos' class. With every new page came not only laughter but conversations about what was happening.
Police Lt. Michael Winston spent his time at Crosby reading to three students and their assistants in teacher Nathan Loux's third-grade therapy group. After reading a book about sibling rivalry in Judy Blume's story, "The Pain and The Great One," Winston talked to the students about seeking help from trustworthy adults whenever they need it.
"If you guys see me anywhere in Pittsfield, don't be afraid to come up and speak to me or any other police officer, even if it's just to say hello," said Winston. "We all want to help you. We want to help you and your teachers want to help you and see you do good in life."
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By the numbers ...
According to third-grade reading scores from exams taken from the 2013 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, 43 percent of the state's third-grade students are not considered proficient readers.
Third grade is considered a key indicator for student literacy rates and how successful a student will be during the rest of their academic years.
Here's a look by public school district at the percentage of third-graders reading at a level of proficient or better. Statewide, 57 percent of students are considered proficient readers.
- Adams-Cheshire: 50 percent
- Berkshire Hills: 49 percent
- Central Berkshire: 57 percent
- Clarksburg: 58 percent
- Farmington River: 47 percent
- Florida: Not reported*
- Hancock: Not reported*
- Lanesborough: 56 percent
- Lee: 54 percent
- Lenox: 65 percent
- North Adams: 52 percent
- Pittsfield: 44 percent
- Richmond: 72 percent
- Savoy: Not reported*
- Southern Berkshire: 55 percent
- Williamstown: 82 percent
*Note: Achievement level percentages are not calculated by the state for groups with fewer than 10 students.