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Seuss teaches kids a Thing or Thing Two

The Baltimore Sun

The Cat in the Hat came, as did Cindy-Lou Who, plus Horton the elephant -- and Thing One and Thing Two.

The famous characters of Dr. Seuss books lined the hallways, milled about classrooms and paraded through Sykesville's Carrolltowne Elementary, the school's contribution to a nationwide celebration of that rhyming raconteur, who would have been 103 years old Friday.

The activities also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the capricious Cat in the Hat, the story of two children weathering a boring, rainy day -- until a cat in a red-and-white hat arrives and wreaks havoc with his antics.

"It's a natural combination to excite kids about reading," said Jeanne Mayo, who, along with fellow media specialist Suelyn Rivera, organized the parade and a packet of Seuss-centered lessons for teachers to select. "Dr. Seuss' books are timeless. Everybody remembers them. ... They're a wonderful vehicle for all kinds of learning."

Carrolltowne Principal Martin Tierney said he hoped the students would look back fondly on the school activities when they read Seuss to their own children.

"If we don't impart to our kids a love for the classics and for literature, then we're really doing them a disservice," said Tierney, dressed as the Cat in the Hat.

The parade of book-themed floats that traveled through Carrolltowne on Thursday helped accomplish that.

Representatives from classes of each grade level drifted into the media center and collected their respective book baskets-turned-floats, newly refurbished with Star-Belly Sneetches, a great green Grinch and his dog-reindeer and a fox with blue socks pulled over its ears.

Jackie Howard, 10, and other fifth-graders were putting the finishing touches on their "Cat in the Hat Comes Back" float, which featured the feline in a bathtub with a frosted cake in his lap -- one of the funniest scenes, she and her classmates decided.

"I love Dr. Seuss," said Jackie, who favors There's a Wocket in My Pocket!

Students throughout the school expressed similar enthusiasm for the bard of the bizarre, his characters and droll drawings.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is one of my favorite books," said fifth-grader Victoria Geppert, 10, dressed in pajamas with a large pink bow in her hair, modeled after a young Who from Who-ville.

Five-year-old Hanna Dufresne said she enjoys Dr. Seuss' books because "they're sometimes funny."

Hanna wore a red-and-white paper hat patterned after the Cat's and a big red bow tie made by her older sister.

"His books are so geared to this level of reading," said Tracy Beavan, a kindergarten assistant. For young readers, the rhymes and simple words make texts such as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish accessible.

Mayo said she hopes their preparations and various lessons help students realize that they can experience books in ways beyond the printed word.

Teachers weaved Seuss trivia and fun into their lessons. They researched Seuss' life history, surveyed the students and teachers for the best Seuss story -- both like Green Eggs and Ham -- and made "oobleck," a substance described in Bartholomew and the Oobleck that Carrolltowne teachers create using corn starch and water.

Across the nation, educators and parents were expected to engage in similar Seuss celebrations.

At their last meeting, Carroll school board members declared March 2 "Read Across America Day" in honor of the writer's birthday, once again joining a National Education Association literacy campaign launched about a decade ago. The board also proclaimed March 2-9 "Read Across Carroll County Week."

The students at Carrolltowne started the festivities early Thursday.

Decked in a bright blue dress and matching slippers, and sporting a blue beak, first-grade teacher Jenna Layman had transformed into Gertrude McFuzz, a Seuss character on a quest to enhance her plumage.

Layman read one of her favorite Seuss tales, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street."

"This story was Dr. Seuss' first book," Layman told the class.

After reading the story, in which the narrator quickly turns a horse and wagon he saw on his way home into an elephant and giraffes pulling along a band and trailer, the students wrote what they saw on Mulberry Street: a giant, a clown juggling eggs, a carriage toting Cinderella.

"Dr. Seuss' favorite thing was imagination," Layman said.

Playing off the title of another Seuss book, Layman asked the children to draw "the thinks they could think."

"That is the thing that all of you can do ... You can think of anything," she said.


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