Gov. Parris N. Glendening stripped off his suit jacket and sat cross-legged on the floor of an Annapolis restaurant Friday morning, surrounded by 33 first-graders in matching tall, red-and-white striped hats - a la "The Cat in the Hat."
"When I was growing up, I loved reading," he told the youngsters from Patti Sapp's class at Piney Orchard Elementary School in Odenton. "I didn't even have a television set when I was growing up, so I used to read all the time, and I used to read to my son all the time."
Maryland reading to children Friday, the National Education Association's fourth annual Read Across America Day. It also was the 97th anniversary of the birth of children's author Theodor Geisel - better known as Dr. Seuss.
The nationwide celebration of reading was expected to involve 30 million adults and children, and included celebrity readers and guessing games, parades and pajama parties, book donations and pep rallies.
"It gets bigger and bigger every year," said Debra Williams-Garner, state coordinator for "Read Across America" and a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Teachers Association, an NEA affiliate.
In Annapolis, at Copeland's restaurant, Glendening was the guest of honor - although a man in a Cat in the Hat costume got as many waves and smiles from the kids. The morning began with a meal of green eggs and ham, a nod to the title of the Dr. Seuss book that the governor read to the children.
The consensus at Courtney Berry's table? "I do not like green eggs and ham."
"I like ham a lot," the 6-year-old giggled. "But I never saw green eggs before."
She's read about them, though. About nine months ago, "Green Eggs and Ham" was the first book she read on her own, from start to finish.
Her mother, Sandi Berry, recalled that day: "Oh, my God, she can really read that book," she remembered exclaiming. "I was calling everyone on the phone, saying, 'She read "Green Eggs and Ham" and she's five years old.' We were taking this book everywhere so they'd believe me," she said.
At Howard County's Mount View Middle School in Marriottsville, green eggs and ham sat alongside fried chicken and french fries as an option in the cafeteria line. The dish went over a little better with these kids, but it was not a roaring success. "It looks nasty," said seventh-grader Danyell Clark.
Angelo Kourdoglou, 12, was the center of attention at his lunch table as he ate the famous meal, sandwiching the eggs and ham between bagel slices.
"It tastes like regular eggs and ham," the sixth-grader said. "But it looks better. This is the way it should be. But our moms would never cook this stuff."
Some pupils made bookmarks, with the day's theme in mind, for Mount View's sister school, Baltimore's Mount Washington Elementary. And several parents visited during the day to read to pupils over the school's closed-circuit television.
"I'm supposed to be at work, but it's a family business, and my husband said this was more important," said Joya Fields, who read a chapter of Richard Peck's "A Year Down Yonder" to more than 224 sixth-graders, including her son, J. T. (who allowed his mother to read only if she promised not to do anything that might embarrass him).
In Baltimore County, McCormick Elementary School in Rosedale welcomed Twig C. George, a Cockeysville woman who has written three books about animals. She has entered the family business: her mother, Jean Craighead George, has written more than 100 children's books.
Fifth-grader Amy Zimmerman, 10, asked Twig George about a book her mother wrote called "The Cry of the Crow: A Novel." She wanted to know whether it was based on a true story. It was, George said.
George said a crow had lived with her family at their house in New York state. It used to walk with her and her two brothers to the bus stop. When they boarded the bus, the crow flew home and tapped on the kitchen window to let their mother know that her children had made it safety to the bus.
"Other mothers had to go and check, but my mother had the crow," George said, laughing.