Berkshire schools join in 'Read Across America'


Read Across America Day was celebrated in style on Friday by schools and community members across Berkshire County.

The national project celebrates literacy and the March 2 birthday of beloved children's author Theodor Seuss Geisel, better know as Dr. Seuss.

At Becket Washington School, Principal Leslie Blake-Davis and kindergarteners wore hats and outfits in the likeness of the iconic Seuss character, The Cat in the Hat. Third-graders Carolina Chassin and Errol Bates made a special presentation, with Chassin first reading a page from "The Cat in the Hat" in Spanish followed by Bates translating in English.

Schools across the county likewise invited community volunteers to share storybooks with students.

"They're here today because they care, and they know reading is so important," Blake-Davis told the Becket Washington students.

Lanesborough Elementary School and its cafeteria staff cooked up a special lunch -- green eggs and ham -- the name of another well-known Seuss book. The menu drew both cheers and some leery looks from students in the lunch line.

Allendale Elementary School in Pittsfield expanded its celebration to include local author Ty Allan Jackson. Students were invited to dress like their favorite superheroes in honor of Jackson's book, "The Supadupa Kid." Jackson shared his insights about the processes of reading and writing stories.

"I love reading. In fact, reading is still today one of my favorite forms of entertainment," said Jackson. He noted that the first book he read was by Dr. Seuss.

Literacy among grade school children has been a great concern in the commonwealth and the nation. According to a 2010 report published by Strategies for Children, an estimated 43 percent of third-graders in Massachusetts do not read at that grade level.

Principal Carl Ameen, dressed as Superman/Clark Kent, said Read Across America can be helpful as a motivating event. "It's something kids can feel a part of," he said.

A group of fourth-graders, including Jocelyn Cote, Mea Devine, Amber Hamling, Kyla Georgefils and Michael Mansfield, gave positive feedback about the presentation.

Georgefils suggested that students might write their own books. Devine said she liked the message of "The Supadupa Kid."

"We learned that you don't have to be a grownup or have powers to be special. You're still like a superhero even if you're a kid," Devine said.

Reading in the Berkshires

Percentages of third-graders reading at a level of proficient or better, by public school district:

Adams-Cheshire: 51 percent

Berkshire Hills: 37 percent

Central Berkshire: 66 percent

Clarksburg: 68 percent

Farmington River: 81 percent

Florida: Not reported.*

Hancock: Not reported.

Lanesborough: 63 percent

Lee: 39 percent

Lenox: 62 percent

North Adams: 37 percent

Pittsfield: 51 percent

Richmond: 100 percent

Savoy: Not reported

Southern Berkshire: 61 percent

Williamstown: 82 percent

Source: MCAS Grade 3 reading Spring 2012 test results, state Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education

* Performance level percentages are not calculated by the state for groups with fewer than 10 students.


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