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Wonderful world of books

Posted: March 4, 2012 - 1:01am  |  Updated: March 4, 2012 - 5:44pm
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High School athletes, including the Crimson Bears basketball players, took time to volunteer at the Read Across Alaska event in Juneau, Thursday.  Melissa Griffiths / Juneau Empire
Melissa Griffiths / Juneau Empire
High School athletes, including the Crimson Bears basketball players, took time to volunteer at the Read Across Alaska event in Juneau, Thursday.

Books can take a reader anywhere, from the snowy peaks of mountains to the far reaches of space, the life of a historical figure to imaginary worlds many may not have imagined. Books also brought hundreds of students, their families and dozens of volunteers to Thunder Mountain High School for the Juneau Education Association sponsored Read Across America event Thursday.

Event organizer Allison “Allie” Smith says this is the biggest turnout she has seen in the four years she has been involved, three of which she has organized. Halfway through the event, which ran from 5-7 p.m., Smith said there had been more than 200 attendees, that cake — the event takes place each year on the birth date of children’s author Dr. Seuss — was gone within a half hour and the juice was drained after 45 minutes. Volunteers headed to the store for more juice and cookies to tide over the attendees, who ranged from infant to grandparent.

Also in attendance were the Cat in the Hat accompanied by Thing 1 and Thing 2, thanks to those dedicated volunteers. Aside from volunteering to set up, dress up and run errands, volunteers painted faces and read stories. Volunteers were not just parents and teachers, but also students, athletes, members of Interact and the honor society, authors, illustrators and storytellers.

High school basketball players could be seen laughing along with elementary age students while reading a picture book. One could see children pointing and asking questions or laughing with the volunteer readers. And children listened intently while police officers and Coastguardsmen read stories with form reminiscent of a seasoned kindergarten teacher.

“Kids love the uniforms,” said Smith.

Tables were covered with books and each child was encouraged to take a book home when they left the event.

Dr. Seuss’ birthday was chosen for the celebration by the National Education Association because of the impact of his books for children. And the event was created because, well, it is important.

“There are all kinds of holidays we celebrate, like Valentine’s Day and all these things, but there was nothing for reading,” said Smith.

“Dr. Seuss wrote with kids and literacy in mind, so they chose his birthday to celebrate reading.” added Smith.

As for the event itself, it doesn’t only celebrate reading, but encourages literacy habits that will likely improve students academic abilities long term.

“(Read Across America) is just to promote literacy and get parents more involved in children’s education. And it shows that people in all walks of life are readers,” explained Smith, “And that reading is cool.”

And if the basketball players, the softball players, police officers and Coastguardsmen, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and siblings are all reading — and you are reading — there is a lot of evidence that reading is very, very cool.

• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at melissa.griffiths@juneauempire.com.

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