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Visitors read to students as part of celebration

By Staff | Feb 25, 2010

Members of the community spent this week volunteering their time to read in local schools for the annual Read Across America, a celebration of books and the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Geisel, was born March 2, 1904, and went on to create dozens of memorable children’s books including “The Cat in the Hat” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Each year the Lee County School District asks residents to donate approximately 30 minutes of their time to read any book to a classroom of children in honor of his birthday.
Most schools are celebrating Read Across America early because students begin taking FCAT exams March 9 and administrators want to ensure that nothing interferes with the testing process.
“It is a good way to bring people from the community into the school,” said Donnie Hopper, principal of Gulf Elementary. “We try to promote it for Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The kids ask a lot of questions.”
The school hosted different readers all day. Some notable readers included WINK News’ Lois Thome and Lee County School Board Member Robert Chilmonik.
Rob Mazzoli, principal of Pine Island Elementary, also volunteered some of his time to read “Mary Had a Little Ham,” by Margie Palatini and Guy Francis, to Beth Watson’s fifth grade class. It was the story of a pig named Stanley who aspired to be an actor.
“The kids loved it,” said Mazzoli. “I recognized some of the kids from when they were in the second grade.”
Mazzoli was a former assistant principal and principal at Gulf Elementary until 2006 and still remembers some of his former students. Over the years he’s been in charge of organizing the Read Across America event and is familiar with its popularity.
“I’ve done them before,” he said. “I used to be a principal so I helped organize it.”
After reading the book, Mazzoli asked the students how they liked it and wished them good luck on the FCAT exams. He also pointed out that the book included a lot of references to other literary works such as “Hamlet” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Readers who agree to volunteer their time for Read Across America either bring in their own book to read or choose from the school’s collection.
“We have a display of books they can pick from,” said Hopper. “They do range from Dr. Seuss to well known titles that kids like to read.”
Some schools hosted their events earlier this week and others will host events later on. For more information on the National Education Association, the host of Read Across America, visit www.nea.org/readacross.