“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.” Matilda by Roald Dahl.
Have you ever read a book and been so enthralled that you have to keep turning page after page to see what happens? Then you’ll know there’s something magical about reading. Instilling that magic and a love of reading in young people is what national Read Across America Day is all about.
What is Read Across America Day?
Read Across America Day is an annual celebration designed to encourage children, young adults (and grown-ups) throughout America to pick up a book and discover the joy of reading.
It is organized by the National Education Association (NEA) and the first Read Across America Day took place in 1998. The program now runs year-round. But the main focus is on the month of March which is National Reading Month and March 2 or the closest school day if the second falls on a weekend which is designated as Read Across America Day.
The date was chosen because originally Read Across America Day was closely associated with Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Geisel). March 2 marks the birthday of Dr. Seuss and was chosen because the author was such a popular choice for young readers and Dr. Seuss’s books like Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat were often children’s first reading books.
A few years ago, however, a discussion was raised around whether Dr. Seuss’s books had racist undertones and some of the illustrations in them have been labeled as problematic.
Since then the National Education Association has diversified the Read Across America program and now, while it is still celebrated on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, instead of being tied to one brand or author, it centers on celebrating reading and writing as a whole and introducing children to a range of diverse books.
Each year schools, libraries, communities, and families come together to celebrate reading and books. From grass-roots events to celebrity support to proclamations from the President, Read Across America Day is celebrated by people across America.
Why should you get involved with Read Across America Day?
Learning to read is a crucial part of a child’s development, from the initial learning about phonological and phonemic awareness to reading whole books. Good reading skills help to set the foundation for all other learning and can be tied to better academic achievement. If you’d like to discover the perfect learning-to-read books, check out this blog.
Reading can also:
Help to fuel imagination – Children’s literature, particularly classics like The Cat in the Hat, Peter Pan, or Harry Potter can fuel the imagination and provides an escape from the everyday world.
Help to make sense of feelings and identity – Reading books with characters that look, sound, or feel like them can help children make sense of how they’re feeling and understand that those feelings are ok. For younger children, books can help get them ready for big events like going to the hospital or starting school.
Help to create a better understanding of the world – By giving students access to a wide range of books, we can help to create a nation of diverse readers who can understand a wider range of perspectives. This is important for all ages but particularly for middle school and high school students who are developing into young adults and will help to shape the world for their generation.
Making reading fun rather than a chore is essential to set children on the path to enjoying books rather than avoiding them, and Read Across America Day is the perfect way to kickstart that fun with a range of activities.
How to celebrate the NEA’s Read Across America Day in your classroom and promote reading all year round
- Set up a reading challenge — Encourage your students (and teachers and families too if they’d like to join in) to read a certain number of books over a month or read for a certain amount of time on March 2. Or challenge students to read a book by an author or in a genre that they’ve never read before. If you are counting books, then our book tracker doodle is a great way to keep a record.
- Have a story time session each day of National Reading Month — If you teach younger students, then a read-aloud session is a way of sharing some classic children’s books or picture books.
- Hold a book-related dress-up day — This is a great activity for elementary school and middle school students. Students can dress up as their favorite character or represent their favorite book. Don’t forget to dress up as your favorite character too!
- Run a book fair — Book fairs are a great way to get the whole class or even the whole school involved. You can set up book-related games or scavenger hunts, craft activities like designing bookmarks, or have a second-hand book sale.
- Write book reports — Have your students write a report about their favorite book. Use Kami’s book report templates to make it easy for students to add details about their book and explain why they like it. You’ll find templates for all ages and stages in our library.
- Get students to write their own story — Middle school and high school students could have a go at writing their own short story or drawing a picture book.
- Invite an author to visit your classroom — If you have a local author or illustrator near your school, invite them to speak to your class about their work and maybe do a book reading with them. If you don’t have someone local, you might be able to find an online event like a national read-aloud session to take part in or find something on social media to help you.
- Visit the library or bookstore — Organize a class trip to one of your local libraries or bookstores and have someone show your students around or attend a reading or story time session at the library. If your students are high schoolers, check out [this blog INSERT HIGH SCHOOL READING BOOKS BLOG] for reading book ideas.
- Organize a book swap or a book drive — If your students have books they no longer read, then you could organize a swap day at school or ask students to bring in items for a book drive and donate the books to your school library or a local charity. You could involve local community members as well to help get more books.
- Start a book club — If Read Across America Day sparks a joy of reading in your students, then think about starting up a year group or whole school book club where students can read and share their thoughts. You can all read the same book, read different books from the same genre or on the same theme, or just all read a different book and then give your review