There was a zug under the ... rug, Mayor Harp said, calling the kids’ attention to the pleasurably goofy rhyme as she read to them from Dr. Seuss’s There’s A Wocket In My Pocket.
The scene was the Strong School on Orchard Street. The occasion National Read Across America Day, to be officially celebrated on Saturday, to mark the anniversary of Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
It was marked in New Haven on Friday through a United Way-sponsored read-along at eight area schools.
The effort involves 127 classrooms, about 3,800 students, and a contribution by United Way and its sponsors of 400 of Dr. Seuss’s books to augment classroom libraries across the area and to call awareness to the importance and joys of reading.
Mayor Toni Harp was one of about 70 volunteers, most others coming from Yale-New Haven Health facilities, who thronged the Strong School lobby Friday morning for the event kick-off of.
The walls and table surfaces were festooned with Cat In the Hat-esque red and white toppling top hats, images of the Lorax, other characters from the Seuss ouevre. The whole place was “Seussified,” to use the term employed by the school’s long-time Principal Susan DiNicola.
The other schools in New Haven participating were Clinton Avenue School and the Fair Haven School.
Before dispersing to read to every classroom in the K through fourth grade school, volunteers heard a short but moving speech by fourth grader Luaryeishka Cirino-Correa. She has participated in all of the four previous United Way-sponsored National Read Along events at the Strong School.
In an interview before she took the stage, Luaryeishka said she enjoys both reading alone and with other people. When she reads with other people and they correct her, she said she doesn’t mind at all. And her favorite place for reading ? Why, at home. Particularly in the living room.
In further interviews on the secrets of their reading habits, the Independent queried two first graders, both wearing Cat in the Hat headwear, who were waiting to meet their readers for the day.
Luis Castillo and Jameera Williams said they too enjoy reading both alone and in school and at their homes with people around them. Luis said his favorite Dr. Seuss Books were Cat in the Hat and One Fish Two Fish.
Jameera said there are more places to read at school than at home.
Pressed on the subject, Luis said his most favorite place to read was on his bed, and preferably under it. “It’s a good place [to read and] to hide,” he added.
Principal Susan DiNicola essentially echoed the kids’ revelation about factors contributing to success in reading. “The biggest factor is to connect the reading in school with the reading at home.”
She said her school — which will be renamed the Obama School next year when it transfers to the campus of Southern Connecticut State University — has made significant progress in its overall scores.
“We’ve been identified as a statewide ‘school of distinction,’” she said, “for the largest growth in math among our high needs kids. And we’ve also made gains in reading.”
“Reading excitement” — which is one of the main points of the Read Across America campaign — is so important. Even as adults,” DiNicola added. “We have to keep reading to stay sharp. The more you read, the better you’ll be.”
The mayor took pleasure in reading The Wocket In My Pocket, but she confessed that her favorite books as a kid were not Seussian. Her favorites included the Madeline books, by Ludwig Bemelemans — telling how a little girl in yellow boots in Paris negotiates life’s problems.