Cat in the Hat event has students ‘feline’ good

Books were the order of the day on Monday at Mountain View, when the local elementary school commemorated the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.

The nationwide reading extravaganza is celebrated each year in conjunction with the March 2 birthday of acclaimed children’s author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

First, it was off to the multi-purpose room for an 8:30 a.m. assembly starring Jory Rickman, resplendent in a Cat in the Hat costume. Ms. Rickman made for a convincing cat, and why not? The mother of seven Mountain View alums and a former librarian at the school, she has been taking on the rhyming role for 19 years.

Ms. Rickman read The Cat in the Hat, the story of a feline visitor who wreaks havok on a home while the two resident kids’ parents are away. She also talked a bit about Geisel, an American writer and cartoonist who beginning in 1950 transformed the world of early reading with a catalog of fun and fanciful books beloved by children to this day. Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Fox in Sox, Horton Hears a Who! and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are just a few of his famous tales. 

The story of how Dr. Seuss’ most recognizable character sprang to life is an interesting one. Life magazine published an article in 1954 about on the prevalence of illiteracy among school children. The story attributed the problem to a simple cause. Kids weren’t learning because only boring books were available to young readers.

The director of Houghton Mifflin’s educational division asked Geisel to take 250 words he deemed crucial for first-graders to learn and turn them into “a book children can’t put down.” Nine months later, he submitted The Cat in the Hat. The book was a resounding success and remains so, selling 452,258 copies in 2009.

After the assembly, the upper graders engaged in independent reading while the younger kids filed out to the playground, where the blacktop was crowded with reading-centric booths. Kids could pick up a free bookmark and toy from representatives of the Friends of the Claremont Library, grab a copy of the COURIER and engage in an array of Seussical activities. For instance, youngsters could get their faces painted like The Cat in the Hat, or play a game in which they attempted to toss beanbags through the holes in boards bedecked with iconic images from Dr. Seuss books.

There was music as well as words wafting through the playground courtesy of a booth featuring members of the Claremont Community School of Music (CCSM). This included a harp played by CCSM faculty member Andrea Puente. This writer, a lifelong bookworm, was reminded of the enchanted harp from the first Harry Potter book, which lulled to sleep a three-headed dog guarding the Sorcerer’s Stone.

CCSM instructors Homero Chavez and Clifford Keating played cello and trumpet/clarinet, respectively, while the school’s executive director Matthew Keating played cello. Kids had the chance to try their hands at some simple instruments, including a rainbow-colored assortment of bells.

After students in the primary grades filed back into their classrooms, the upper graders took their turn at the reading fair.

The city’s homage to reading will continue on Sunday, March 29 when the Friends of the Claremont Library mark the local reading nook’s 100th birthday during their third annual Children’s Book Festival. The event, which will run from 1 to 4 p.m., will include a slew of fun activities including crafts, storytelling, face painting and magic. Every child in attendance at the free event will receive a book to take home, while supplies last.

—Sarah Torribio


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