Young Aztecs celebrate Dr. Seuss

by Stacey Oparnica

03_04_13_News_DrSeus_SOBlankets were sprawled across the grass on Campanile Walkway last Friday as preschoolers from the San Diego State Children’s Center listened intently to dramatic readings of their favorite books.

The toddlers gathered with parents, volunteers and SDSU faculty and staff members to celebrate the National Education Association’s annual Read Across America Day, which promotes literacy and the development of reading at an
early age.

Forty-five million people nationwide participated in the largest reading celebration in the country—among them, actress Uma Thurman, according to NEA. It was the first time SDSU participated in the festivities, which was also a pre-celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2.

SDSU Career Services Information Technology Consultant Yiftach Levy was one of many parents reading aloud with the children in the grass.

Levy, who was celebrating Read Across America Day with his 4-year-old son from the Children’s Center, said it was great to see kids reading in groups with their friends, teachers and parents.

SDSU child and family development assistant professor Sarah Garrity, who also read aloud during the event, says the communal, familial factor is important. She says it’s especially crucial for children to read with their parents on a regular basis.

“Research consistently shows that one of the best predictors of how well children do in school is whether or not they were read to and the number of books that were actually present in the home,” Garrity said. “When we think about some of our fondest memories reading, it’s not just about the book, but it’s about the person who read us the book. Early literacy is tied into that social-emotional effective component, which is so important between parents and children.”

In the home of child and family development senior and event volunteer Chris Morris, reading was not an option, but an expectation.

“My mom taught me how to read,” Morris said. “She really drilled that into me. Before I could leave to go out and play, I had to read a book.”

Morris said although he was always an average reader and really struggled in the beginning, his mother’s fervency for literacy has remained with him through adulthood, and will remain after he graduates
in May.

The hour-long event at SDSU was finished by 11 a.m., but for the staff at the Children’s Center, that merely meant it was time to head back for lunch before the books would come out once again.

Children’s Center assistant director Jane-Ann Carroll said the children—some as young as 6 months old are read to as soon as they walk through the door several times a day.

“We want to plant that seed as young as we possibly can,” Carroll said. “If you don’t do anything else for your children to help them learn how to learn; if you only read to them, that’s giving them a tremendous advantage that they wouldn’t
ordinarily have.”

What does a preschooler at the center have to say about why reading is important?

“So I can read all by myself,” 4-year-old Malia Harris said. “To
get smart.”