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Monday snow would not, could not, let them read, but Thursday sun returned their fun as hundreds of students at Tyler Elementary School partnered with local Sailors from Naval District Washington (NDW) to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ belated birthday with a Read Across America event, March 6.

Rear Adm. Mark Rich, commandant, NDW, kicked off the event by reading Seuss’ literary classic, “Green Eggs and Ham.” Rich encouraged the gathered children to read at every chance they get, and to get their parents involved in reading with them.

“It will open doors to you,” he said to gathered students. “Reading is so important because it tells you and teaches you about people, about places, about history, and about life. The foundation of learning is reading.”

As the signature program of the National Education Association (NEA), the annual Read Across America campaign celebrates reading and promotes childhood literacy in public schools nationwide. This year marked the first year NDW personnel volunteered to participate in activities at Tyler Elementary.

“It was a really good experience for our kids, our families, and our teachers,” said Principal Mitchell Brunson of this year’s partnership. “I could see the level of energy and excitement in their eyes as the Admiral was reading.”

Brunson said many of the students have not had much exposure to members of the armed services, so the event served as a great chance to ask questions and satisfy their curiosity.

Thirty Sailors from NDW, including one dressed as fan-favorite Cat in the Hat, spread out into the classrooms later in the day to read more books, play games, make crafts and answer questions from the inquisitive children wondering about each ribbon and stripe on the Sailors’ uniforms.

“It was awesome,” said Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Webber, Naval History and Heritage Command. “It was really easy to read to them. They read to me sometimes. Some words they couldn’t pronounce, so I helped them. It was just a good opportunity for me.”

Young children often don’t get enough exposure to reading, said Webber, who has a 5-year-old niece she enjoys reading with. One of the students encircling Webber as she read declared that he wished to be president one day.

“You have to stay in school, read a lot of books, and you’ll get there,” Webber told the students. “You just have to work hard for it.”

Beyond motivating kids to read, the NEA encourages parents and caregivers to get involved as a critical piece to classroom foundations. In a reading literacy study by the National Center for Education Statistics and U.S. Department of Education, research showed a 28-point increase in comprehension levels over the national average for fourth grade when parents take are more actively involved in the learning process.

Webber said she never had the opportunity to take part in such an event as a child, so she looked forward to volunteering her time when she heard about the upcoming event.

Tyler Elementary is a school focused on small group literacy, Brunson explained, so Read Across America and similar celebrations are important in continuing the motivation to pick up a book. “We just capitalize on that to continue to expose our kids to reading opportunities,” he said.

To learn more about Read Across America or find reading resources, visit www.nea.org.

For more news, information and photos from around NDW, visit www.facebook.com/NavDistWash.