Garfield School went all out last week to celebrate the 112th birthday of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. The school held its annual read-in on the good doctor’s birthday, March 2. 

The school was festooned in all things Seussical. The staff wore bright red shirts representing characters such as Thing 1. Parents and students listened to Seuss stories and worked on Seuss-related crafts. There was even a competition to decorate classroom doors with themes from his celebrated books.

Principal Jamie Stauder sported Cat in the Hat headwear. 

“Read-in is a wonderful opportunity to encourage reading at home and at school,” said Stauder, sounding as serious as it’s possible to sound in such a get-up. 

Garfield has kept this tradition alive for 18 years. In recent years, the event has been organized by reading specialist Rose Bottorf.  

“Sometimes parents read to kids,” she noted, “or teachers read to kids. They always do a craft.” Bottorf noted the crowd that came Tuesday “was one of our better turnouts.”

They were not only drawn by the read-in, however. Garfield’s Book Fair was also in full swing, the main hallway lined with racks and stacks of children’s books and novelties. Proceeds from the Book Fair go directly to school programs. Freebies enticed the crowd as well. Each child received a notebook and bookmark, and snacks were served at the end.

The Doctor’s whimsical wisdom was on display everywhere. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you.” “The more that you read, the more things you will know. Oh the places you’ll go.” 

Parents and students crowded into classrooms to hear teachers read such favorites as Hooray for Diffendoofer, One Fish, Two Fish and the all-time classic The Cat in the Hat. Students sat on carpets, while teachers read with great expression and dramatic gestures. After the reading, the students engaged in crafts and coloring, usually with some adult assistance. Kindergarten teacher Erica Whittington had the children make Cat in the Hat masks.

Gail Luperini passed out construction paper and asked the children to create, “Word families, with words that rhyme.” They came up with combinations like way, day and lay. When they were stumped for a rhyme, she told them, “It’s Dr. Seuss, so you can make up words.” When a group was finished in one classroom, they moved to another for more reading and crafts. There was a festive atmosphere throughout the building but the best was yet to come.

Adults and children filled the gym to munch on Goldfish and watch a program directed by Music Teacher Maria Carini. Some of her second-graders were on stage to play percussion instruments. Her dancers were ready to wave their colorful scarves, and readers presented two books: My Many Colored Days and all-time favorite Green Eggs and Ham.

As music filled the room, dancers pranced, hopped and wiggled to classical and jazz pieces. The percussion players kept the synchronized beat, and readers hammed it up at the microphone. Giselle Rodgers and Triston Dean displayed great enthusiasm reciting My Many Colored Days. Then Natalie Grover and Cooper Jones engaged in a spirited back and forth on Green Eggs and Ham

Megan Ford’s kindergarten class, it was announced, won the prize for best-decorated door. Their prize was Dr. Seuss cookies, of course. 

At the end of the evening, parent Sonia Andrade commented, “This was wonderful. We loved it. We have very creative teachers.” Her 7-year-old daughter, Marisol, chimed in, “Me and my mom worked together to make a fox puppet and we colored it.” 

As Dr. Seuss would say, “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.