“Green Eggs and Ham.” “The Lorax.” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Plus, of course, the ever-popular “Cat in the Hat.”
Most have pored over the poetic words of one or all of these Dr. Seuss books at some point, either as a youngster or reading to their own child. Not surprising considering the numbers: 600 million copies were printed of his 60 titles during Dr. Seuss’ lifetime, with translations into 20 languages.
Yet most know little about this guy with the interesting name of Dr. Seuss.
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He studied at Dartmouth in neighboring New Hampshire before venturing overseas to Oxford in England to continue his education. Turning avocation into vocation, Geisel worked as an illustrator and cartoonist at two renowned magazines, Vanity Fair and Life, later venturing into the ad industry.
After World War II, Geisel shifted his focus to children’s books, under the moniker Dr. Seuss, with an enviable volume of stories produced until his death in 1991.
Each year, the National Education Association (NEA) promotes “Read Across America Day” on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
Ms. Rose, a teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, makes sure this Mission Promise Neighborhood school takes part in this nationwide event to celebrating reading.
Family Success Coach Celina Ramos-Castro underscores the need for such events by explaining, “It’s essential for our kids to develop a love of reading. This promotes vocabulary building and is critical to families learning English as a second language, which is the case for many Mission Promise Neighborhood students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School.”
Ramos-Castro’s job is also to connect parents to resources to better their child’s reading skills. She knows of many community-based organizations – all part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood initiative – that can help.
One such agency is Tandem, Partners in Early Learning. Tandem works in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, with a mission to “provide programs and services in high-need communities.” An example of their community impact was the successful Mission Promise Neighborhood holiday book giveaway, held at The Women’s Building in the Mission last December. Tandem was on hand to foster parents reading to their children. Other partners participated, with the Children’s Book Project donating books and the San Francisco Public Library tabling to avail families of resources.
Such educational events are an essential part of the two-generation approach of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, as a means to counter impediments to family and student success.
The challenge can be told via the numbers. At an early age, only 8.6 percent of 3-year-olds in the Mission Promise Neighborhood meet Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) standards for English-language ability. Once in elementary school, 15 percent of third-grade students (compared to 48 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in English-language arts, while 22 percent of fifth-grade students (compared to 55 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in the same category.
The Mission Promise Neighborhood Survey in 2014 found that 64 percent of families in the Mission are reading to their children three or more times per week. That’s something to celebrate on this “Read Across America Day,” but there is still much work to be done.
To foster reading, Cesar Chavez got into the Dr. Seuss spirit today, with all grades (pre-K to fifth) taking part. To generate interest, a table was set up promoting the event. Students could be seen snapping pictures with a colorful Dr. Seuss poster located at the entrance of the school.
School staff and parents – each donning a handmade, paper “Cat in the Hat” headpiece – ventured into 25 classrooms, with the volunteers reading a story for 15 minutes. All volunteers then received an NEA certificate of appreciation.
Elvira Arriola epitomizes the power of the community’s involvement in today’s “Read Across America Day” event. Elvira and her two daughters live on Capp Street in the Mission, with both children having been students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School. For the last decade, Elvira has taken the time to read in the classrooms of her daughters.
Elvira has made the effort to create a familial culture of reading in her household.
Her youngest child is currently a second-grader, with the mother reading at home in Spanish to the bilingual youngster. Elvira’s 13-year-old turns the tables by reading to her mother in English, bettering the parent’s skills.
Elvira speaks of her experiencing bringing that love of books to school today by enthusiastically exclaiming, “I am so glad I could read to the kids. It’s great to see their smiling faces. I know they are understanding the joy of reading!”
About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.