Amy Batista, Special Writer
MONROE — In schools across the United States on March 2, many students and staff showed up for school and work dressed up in Dr. Seuss-themed shirts and costumes as the children’s book writer was the author of choice on what would have been his 108th birthday.
It was the 15th Read Across America day, which celebrates Dr. Seuss’ birthday and promotes literacy. More than 25 guest readers, ranging from local officials, local library representatives, Board of Education members, retired teachers, parents and relatives, all came out to celebrate the day at Oak Tree Elementary School.
Guests included, but were not limited to Mayor Richard Pucci, Councilwoman Leslie Koppel, Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton, school district Business Administrator Michael Gorski, Board of Education President Kathy Kolupanowich, Board of Education member Louis Masters as well as the Principal Dennis Ventrello, Vice Principal Theodore Magielnicki and other staff members.
For many students at Oak Tree, this was a special treat, and for many it was their first time having a book read to them by Mayor Pucci.
Mayor Pucci visited two classrooms, Magdalena Fidura’s first grade and Teri Gross’s second grade, where he took a few minutes to speak to the students about the new movie, “The Lorax,” just being released that evening at the movies, then read them Dr. Seuss’ “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”
Afterward, the students had a few minutes to ask some questions and talk to the mayor.
”Having the mayor come and read to my class was a big honor,” Ms. Fidura said. “I think it’s wonderful that the mayor is able to find time in his busy day to come out to the schools and interact with the students in our community. The students were all pleasantly surprised when he entered our classroom, and they all had many questions for the mayor, including his favorite baseball and football teams.”
She added, “I think it’s important for students, especially at such a young age, to be able to associate the mayor as a real person and not only know his name. His visit was a memorable experience for me and my students, an experience that we will remember always.”
For Ms. Gross’ class, the impact of meeting the mayor was even more exciting and meaningful.
”We had been learning about the duties of a mayor in our social studies lessons,” she said. “We also made thank you cards to send to the mayor for his wonderful visit. The students felt very special to have such an important man take the time to visit our class. Some were amazed that he could take the time to come to our school. They thought he was really nice, funny, and he read very well. They were also thrilled with the colorful pens and pencils he gave them.”
Ms. Gross’ class read Dr. Seuss books, practiced rhyming words just like Dr. Seuss and helped decorate some “Cat in the Hat” hats with the students’ own designs to celebrate the day.
Mayor Pucci thanked all the students as he left the classrooms for having him as a special guest for the morning.
”During the year, you always get special events that you can attend and do,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that I always look forward to.”
He added, “My granddaughter, Kara, is at Brookside so today I will make sure that I stop over there and visit her class and make sure I do two or three other classes too.”
He said, “It’s just a wonderful experience because the kids are so happy. It’s not necessarily me the person as mayor; it’s just to see me, the mayor of the community, come in and visit with them or other officials.
”It’s amazing how much I got into the Dr. Seuss books and how interesting they really are as a learning experience at a very young age for these youngsters. It’s always good to see the smiles on their faces, and they put you to realize who you really are as a mayor when you walk in, and they start asking questions. It really shows over the years when I do visit some of these younger classes how intelligent they are for their age. They are well read. You can see it. It’s always fun for me.”
Mayor Pucci read “The Lorax” at Brookside in the afternoon to the older students.
”I rotate the books. I’ve been doing this long enough that I am getting well versed on Dr. Seuss,” he said.
Councilwoman Koppel was also one of the many guest readers of the day, and it was not her first year participating to read for Read Across America, but it was a special and memorable one. She had the opportunity to share it with her daughter, Remi.
Ms. Koppel read Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks” while her daughter chose Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”
”This year was special because I brought my seventh-grader Remi to read to her third-grade teacher’s classroom. (Benjamin) Howroyd, Remi’s third-grade teacher, was one of Remi’s favorite teachers,” Ms. Koppel said. “He has a silliness in the classroom that makes him a special and memorable teacher. Dr. Seuss also combines silliness with learning just like Mr. Howroyd. That helps children develop a lifelong passion for the joy of learning.”
She added, “I read a book full of tongue twisters. It was lots of fun, and the third-graders helped me out.”
She picked a couple of students to help her read a couple pages during her reading, and they had just as much fun trying to work through the tongue twisters as she did.
”The students had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the books Councilwoman Koppel and Remi had chosen,” Mr. Howroyd said. “ ‘Fox in Socks’ is a challenge with all the tongue twisters, and the students were really impressed with how well she handled them.”
”I think it was really fun, and I thought it would be really nice to do this again,” said third-grader Anurag Tadapaneni from Mr. Howroyd’s class.
He enjoyed the “Fox in Socks” book and the tongue twisters the most.
”It was good. It was funny because of the tongue twisters,” said third-grader Paul Graetzig.
”The PTA did a fantastic job of hosting this event, and the parents’ extra effort to include special things for our children in Monroe Township really make our schools fantastic,” Ms. Koppel said.
Students were invited to decorate Dr. Seuss hats to place in the hallways, classroom doors and bulletin boards. Many of the hats read “Hats off to reading.”
The Oak Tree PTA provided all the students with pencils. In addition, it sponsored an assembly for all students called “The Magic of Reading” with Brian Richards.
Later that evening, the PTA held a Movie Night in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Students and parents were invited to come and watch Dr Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who” for free in the cafeteria. Students were invited to come dressed in their pajamas and lounge out on blankets while enjoying the movie with friends and family.
Representative Rush Holt visited Oak Tree on Feb. 27 to read to Mr. Howroyd’s third-grade class as part of Read Across America since his schedule would not allow him to be there March 2.
”The students were very excited and learned a lot about Washington, D.C., the Capitol Building as well as the job and responsibilities of a U.S. Representative,” Mr. Howroyd said.
Amy Batista, Special Writer