MONROE: Local leaders read Dr. Seuss to students

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
   MONROE — Many students and staff showed up for school and work dressed up in Dr. Seuss-themed shirts and costumes in celebration of Read Across America day in schools across the United States on March 1.
   The well-known and liked children’s book writer, Theodore Seuss Geisel, was celebrated and honored in what would have been his 109th birthday March 2.
   ”It’s great to have a day to celebrate the love of reading because reading is so important,” said fifth-grade teacher Sonny DeMarco. “This day really does have the kids stop and think about how much they do love to read.”
   National Read Across America Day has adopted March 2, 1998, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, as the annual date as a time for reading motivation and awareness created by the National Education Association.
   According to its website, it is the largest celebration of reading this country has ever had.
   ”I believe reading should begin at home when children are very young and should be a part of their everyday routine,” said Monroe Board of Education President Kathy Kolupanowich. “The love of reading is probably one of the most important gifts we can give our children and a skill that they will use every day for the rest of their lives.”
   More than a dozen guest readers, ranging from local officials, local library representatives, Board of Education members, parents and relatives, all came out to celebrate the day at Applegarth Middle School.
   Wayne Hamilton, township business administrator, started the day in his classroom reading a proclamation from Mayor Richard Pucci supporting Read Across America Day. He then read Dr. Seuss’ “Yertle the Turtle.”
   ”It was age appropriate and had a great message to discuss at the end of the reading — the needs of one do not outweigh the needs of the many,” said Mr. Hamilton, who also added he is a certified teacher in K-12 social studies and enjoys being in the classroom.
   ”As we get older, there are many distractions that compete with reading time,” Mr. Hamilton said. “A good reader is more successful in school and the workplace. It stimulates the imagination.”
   Each class had the opportunity at some point during the day to hear a guest reader.
   ”We had a reader for every class,” said PTA president Chrissy Skurbe. “We invited previous readers and reached out to the community.”
   Guests included Mr. Hamilton, Councilwoman Leslie Koppel, Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton, school district Business Administrator Michael Gorski, Ms. Kolupanowich, Oak Tree-Applegarth PTA President Chrissy Skurbe as well as Principal Dennis Ventrello and other staff members.
   Mr. Ventrello selected a Dr. Seuss book, “The Skeetches,” to reinforce the message of character education and anti-bullying programs promoted in the schools.
   ”It’s a satire on discrimination between races and cultures,” Principal Ventrello said. “Our school has a very diverse student population representing a number of ethnic groups, religions and cultures so I felt the book was very appropriate. The underlying message was we are all the same. The book also reflected our ongoing character education and anti-bullying programs.”
   Principal Ventrello gave the students a special treat with a drawing lesson on how to draw the “Cat in the Hat.”
   ”The children always get a kick out of seeing me draw,” Principal Ventrello said. “I was able to help them create their own drawing to bring home to their parents. I’m always amazed at how easily children pick up drawing.”
   For Ms. Skurbe, being able to bring the experience of guest readers into the classrooms for the day is something that will leave a “lasting impression” on the students.
   ”When the superintendent and president of the Board of Education take time out of their busy schedules to sit in a classroom and read to students, it is truly a special experience and makes a lasting impression,” she said.
   Dr. Hamilton said this day gives him the opportunity to “interact with students.”
   ”I enjoy reading to students,” Dr. Hamilton said. “Dr. Seuss’ birthday gives me another opportunity to do so. This year I read the ‘Real Story of the Three Little Pigs,’ told from the wolf’s perspective. Kids loved it. They were intrigued by the other side of the story. I selected this particular book because I enjoy the illustrations as well as sharing the other perspective of the popular children’s story. It’s a great change of pace and a gentle reminder about what we’re here to do.”
   Ms. Skurbe said this was her first time being a guest reader for her son’s fifth grade class. This year, she finally got the chance to read; because of the overwhelming response from others, there was never a spot for her on the schedule.
   ”I wanted to read to his class,” Ms. Skurbe said.
   She chose the book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” because “they are off to middle school.”
   ”No matter where they go, they should be true to themselves, and they will succeed,” Ms. Skurbe said was the lesson of the story.
   The PTA organized the readers, gave out pencils to every student and arranged an assembly for the following week that focused on reading.
   ”The PTA, teachers and school staff did a great job organizing the day,” Principal Ventrello said. “There were so many residents and district and township staff (members), who gave of their time to visit our school and read to the children.”
   For Ms. Kolupanowich, it was a welcome experience since her children are all adults now.
   ”I enjoyed this experience very much because I don’t get to go into the classrooms very often,” Ms. Kolupanowich said.
   She said she selected Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” to read to the students.
   ”As a member of the Board of Education, I had the unique opportunity to see firsthand how the educational decisions we make are implemented in the classroom and the effect they have on students and staff,” Ms. Kolupanowich said. “The highlight was in seeing that we are doing great things for kids and giving them the quality education they deserve with excellent teaching staff.”
   This was not Councilwoman Koppel’s first year participating in Read Across America, but it was a special and memorable one. She had the opportunity to share it with her daughter, Remi Egierd, 14, of Monroe, who read Dr. Seuss’ “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”
   ”She read the entire book while I turned the pages,” Ms. Koppel said. “The kids loved her because Mr. Howroyd introduced her as his former student.”
   Ms. Koppel and Remi read to third-graders in Mr. Howroyd’s class again this year. She said the day reminds people reading is “fun.”
   ”I think it’s great to be able to pass on my love of reading to the classroom,” Ms. Koppel said. “Dr. Seuss reminds us that reading is fun. The kids were all in PJ’s, and they laughed and enjoyed the day.”
   Ms. Koppel said she already is looking forward to “carrying on the tradition” next year in Mr. Howroyd’s classroom.
   ”It is really exciting for me to read with my daughter to kids in the same Monroe School district that I went to school in and graduated from,” Ms. Koppel said.
   Fifth-graders in Sonny DeMarco’s class participated in a project that focused on some of Dr. Seuss’ famous quotes. The project, “What Dr. Seuss’ Words Mean to Us,” was displayed on the bulletin board outside the classroom.
   ”We tried to interpret what his words meant,” Ms. DeMarco said. “Then we tried to see what those words meant to us.”
   ”Today is your day!” said fifth-grader Jasmine Berrios, of Monroe. “So go out and seize the day and go out and get the reward that’s at the end of it.”
   Fifth-grader Arsalan Munshi, of Monroe, chose the quote from the book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
   ”To me, it means, it’s your life,” Arsalan said. “You can go wherever want. You can think whatever you want.”
   Arsalan’s favorite book is “Green Eggs and Ham,” and she said she likes how it rhymes.
   Fifth-grader Pranav Yalamala, of Monroe, chose “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
   ”He has good quotes,” Pranav said. “It teaches you not to be sad many times.”
   Fifth-grader Kaitlyn Cawley also chose “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
   ”To me, it meant be proud and lucky that you got to do something that you really like,” Kaitlyn said. “Don’t be upset. Just know that you at least got to do it.”
   According to Kaitlyn, Dr. Seuss’ books teach “kids stuff without actually know they are learning.”
   ”He’s converting important life lessons into children’s books,” Kaitlyn said. “I think that’s really nice.”