By AUDREY FISCHER
First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan were special guests at the National Education Association’s 13th Annual Read Across America Day, held at the Library of Congress on March 2. The event celebrated Dr. Seuss’s 106th birthday and kicked off the NEA’s national reading-promotion campaign, in which an estimated 45 million educators, parents and students are expected to participate in literacy-promotion events nationwide. NEA is also a reading-promotion partner of the Library’s Center for the Book.
“We’re honored that the NEA president chose this library to host this important event,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “This building—the Thomas Jefferson Building—is named for a president who loved reading.”
“President Obama issued a proclamation making this Read Across America Day, and you get to be here, in America’s library,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, addressing nearly 300 Arlington, Va., and District of Columbia elementary school students who came to the Library of Congress for the event.
The gleeful students were entertained by musicians who had them up on their feet. But the children later sat quietly while U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan read the Seuss classic “Horton Hears a Who!” Published more than 50 years ago, the book’s message remains timeless: Every voice counts, no matter how small.
Duncan, whose children attend one of the Arlington, Va., schools, described their principal, Mary Begley, who was at the event, as “an excellent teacher.”
“The President of the United States reads all the time,” declared Mrs. Obama. “We make sure our girls read every day. They can stay up an extra 30 minutes if they are reading, so you know everyone in our house reads every night.”
Mrs. Obama read “The Cat in the Hat” to the children, making sure to point out the book’s valuable lesson—do not let strangers in the house when parents are not at home. At the part in the story when the children are confronted with whether or not to confess the outrageous events of the day, Mrs. Obama paused to advise, “Always tell your mother the truth.”
Wearing “Cat in the Hat” red-and-white stovepipe hats, the children greeted the beloved character himself and his cohorts, Thing 1 and Thing 2, who were surprise guests.
NEA President Van Roekel administered “The Reader’s Oath” to the children: “I promise to read each day and each night. I know that it’s key to growing up right.”