Armed with stories, Berkshire volunteers fan out for Read Across America Day


Photo Gallery | Read Across America in the Berkshires

More Photos | Kindergarten Students make Green Eggs and Ham

Video | Kindergarten students in Mara Wooley's class at CT Plunkett School in Adams make green eggs and ham.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags."

But on Wednesday, Read Across America Day came just the same.

Sponsored and promoted by the National Education Association, Read Across America Day — also the birthday of the well-versed children's book author — aims to be a festive way to engage community members and schools in promoting literacy. In the Berkshires, dozens of dignitaries, businesspeople and community members volunteered to read at least one book to a local classroom of students in a participating school.

In Pittsfield, Mayor Linda Tyer marked the occasion by reading the high seas adventure, "The Wretched Stone," by Chris Van Allsburg to two "wonderful fifth-grade classes" at Capeless Elementary School.

"This is truly one of my favorite events," Tyer said, "because it celebrates literacy and helps to nurture a love of reading among our youth.

"We know that reading takes kids on an adventure and leads to academic success in the future," she said. "It's important that we do all that we can to promote literacy in our schools and in our community."

In many schools across Massachusetts, assessment data indicates that while the commonwealth's children continue to rank as the top readers in the nation, literacy rates of students have become stagnant. In 2009, 47 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient or above on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams. Results from the 2015 NAEP exams showed that the rate only increased to 50 percent of fourth-graders scoring at a proficient or above level, meaning half of the state's students are still struggling to read at grade level.

Across the Berkshires, various community-based initiatives are in place to help change that, from the Pittsfield Promise early reading initiative to Northern Berkshire school district partnerships with the Bay State Reading Institute and The Reading Institute of Williamstown.

Though this day of literacy has been celebrated since 1998, this year, President Barack Obama lent his John Hancock to officially proclaim March 2 as Read Across America Day, calling Springfield.-born Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, "one of America's revered wordsmiths" and a man who "made children see that reading is fun, and in the process, he emphasized respect for all."

The president noted how last month, First Lady Michelle Obama helped launch a nationwide initiative organized through a coalition of public and private stakeholders called "Open eBooks," which unlocks more than $250 million worth of reading material to children and families through a free app for mobile devices.

"Books reveal unexplored universes and stimulate curiosity, and in underserved communities, they play a particularly important role in prompting inquisition and encouraging ambition."

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.


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