Embracing Our Differences, a local nonprofit that uses the arts to create a better world, has participated in Read Across America’s celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday through an event they have hosted in our schools for the past three years: Embracing Dr. Seuss’ Differences Day.
The event is designed to commemorate the author’s birthday and stimulate conversations about diversity, bullying, and respect for others in elementary schools throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties.
This year, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading stepped up through support from lead partners The Patterson Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the United Way of Manatee County to expand the event in both counties, provide books for students in Title-I schools and raise awareness about the importance of reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
Volunteer readers arrived in classrooms festooned with banners, cards and posters wishing Dr. Seuss a happy birthday and came prepared to read one of Dr. Seuss’ books with the class. Principals, teachers, students, and volunteers beamed as they wore red and white felt hats – reminiscent of the iconic head covering worn in “The Cat in the Hat”— and engaged in conversations about tolerance and diversity with the students.
The excitement was palpable in the hallways and classrooms as children declared their love for both Dr. Seuss books and having guests read aloud to them. However, the biggest smiles were on the faces of the 1,664 students who received a Dr. Seuss book of their very own to take home.
A student in Donna Stoddart’s first-grade class at Samoset Elementary School in Manatee County declared, “This is the bestest book! I’m in love with it. I’m going to read it every day.”
Volunteer readers reported gasps, cheers, and spontaneous dancing when the students were given the news that they would each receive a book with a special bookplate where they could write their names.
“This year’s celebration had more than 300 volunteers,” said Brenna Wilhm, education director for Embracing Our Differences. “They read to 6,258 pre-kindergarten to fifth grade students in 337 classrooms in 38 area elementary schools.”
Witnessing the joy expressed in schools throughout the region was a fantastic reminder of the power of positive interactions with our children. The effect of the day will continue to ripple as students share their books with their parents, friends and siblings.