Read Across America Day is coming up, but as we already know, getting students involved in and excited about the joys of reading is something to be encouraged at any and all times of the year. Read Across America Day as a celebration simply reminds us of our goal to keep our reading and learning resources diverse and inclusive—focusing on those which promote an understanding of other people’s lives—no matter the subject.
So on March 2nd, many of our schools, libraries, and communities will be celebrating the special day, however, NEA’s Read Across America also provides heaps of diverse books and resources for educators, caregivers, and students to keep on track with their official calendar.
If you’re new to the occasion, let’s jump into a little more detail.
What is Read Across America?
In 1998, the National Education Association (NEA) held the first Read Across America Day – founding the nation’s largest celebration dedicated to reading. Quickly evolving into a year-round program, the celebration’s focus is set on diversifying the reading and learning habits of children and teens, motivating them to reach for resources that as about everyone, for everyone. Overall, the celebration aims to create a nation of diverse readers, enlightening the next generation for a more inclusive future.
“When we make time to read with kids, whether on NEA’s Read Across America Day or any other day – children get the message that reading is important. When we read books that have characters of all races, genders, and backgrounds, students discover their own voices and learn from the voices of others.
– NEA President @BeckyPringle.”
How can I celebrate with students?
Here are some teaching resources and ideas for the kinds of ways you can easily celebrate with your students.
1. Jump into NEA’s resources
Of course, you can pick up any children’s book you like, but sourcing your inspiration from reputable associations (such as the NEA) means you’ll find resources that make room for all readers. Here are some helpful links from the NEA website to get you started:
2. Bring the stories to life
To help your young readers enjoy their reading that much more, create links between the narrative and their own lives! Plus, relating it to certain events on your school calendar, like the science fair or Memorial Day, you’re reinforcing the idea that reading is valuable and fun all year round!
3. Go to a reading
Local libraries, bookstores, and book clubs across the country often celebrate by hosting readings on National Read Across America day. Depending on what you’re learning, this could invite the perfect opportunity to take your young adult students out of the class and into an unforgettable reading experience.
4. Hold birthday parties for your favorite children’s authors
Nothing gets learners more excited than a birthday celebration packed with fun games, snacks, and themes on a school day! Don’t worry, it can still be super educational – students can dress up in clothes of the era, food can relate to the story or the writer, and students can take turns reading passages from the book! Again, this way lets you keep the celebrations rolling month to month.
How can I inspire more reading?
Not all students are avid readers, so here are a few quick ways to help ignite the spark.
1. Keep books accessible
Everywhere your learners spend time in the classroom, there should be a stack of books just waiting to be read. Not all children have equal access to these resources, so making them readily available, or even letting them take them home will make a huge difference!
2. Make the library a fun destination
Nobody’s going to want to visit the library if all it’s associated with is homework or assignments. Start making more regular trips to have brain breaks and discover new parts, like different genres or themes, or just to unlock the wealth of knowledge held by librarians. Not only does this help foster a love for reading and reading environments, but it also helps students develop a level of respect for places like libraries.
3. Read aloud
There can be many barriers for students to get into reading for themselves; remove them all with regular shared reading sessions. No matter their age, reading aloud improves vocabulary and language skills while opening up opportunities for discussion.
An important shift
Read Across America Day is held on March 2nd to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Previously on Read Across America Day, the NEA encouraged public schools to celebrate by dedicating the day to his most famous books, including ‘The Cat in the Hat’ or ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go’. However, living true to its purpose of pushing for more diversity and equal representation in literature, it has shifted away from being Seuss-centric. As the NEA website puts it, they’re working towards “a new focus on books that tell children of color or of different gender identities that they belong in the world and the world belongs to them”.
This comes after researchers took a closer look into the work of the famous children’s author, and found recurring themes of racial caricatures and stereotypes.