In a perfect world, every child in America would love to read. In reality, kids today have so many activities competing for their time, from sports to clubs to scouts, that sometimes a little encouragement to sit down with a book is needed.

Imagine what a pep rally for reading could do! 

That’s the strategy behind the National Education Association’s (NEA) “Read Across America Day” on March 2, an annual celebration launched in 1998. Held on the birthday of the beloved Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel), Read Across America Day each year motivates children and teens to read by celebrating the many joys of reading.  It’s a chance to help kids see that books are a portal to worlds filled with adventure and exploration, mystery and intrigue, compassion and empathy, even silliness and shenanigans.

While Tuesday, March 2, is the pep rally day, “Read Across America” is actually a year-long program designed to foster a lifelong love of reading in children. The NEA introduces kids to books that they can relate to; books that help them learn about and understand a diversity of people and cultures; and books that are “about everyone, for everyone.” 

Every month, the NEA assigns a theme to help kids engage in reading by linking books to events happening in their schools, communities, and the world.  This year’s theme for March is “Cultivate Compassion,” with book recommendations that encourage empathy when looking at other people’s lives.  There are also books that tie in to Women’s History Month in March.  April’s theme, “Inspire Stewardship,” will encourage kids to explore and connect to nature.  

To help parents, caregivers and teachers celebrate Read Across America, the NEA’s website posts book recommendations for elementary schoolers, the middle grades and young adults, as well as suggestions for discussions and activities that link books to experiences in students’ lives

So, go ahead – grab a book and celebrate the joy of reading on Tuesday, March 2.  Send a favorite book to a child or teen that you know, or better yet, hop on Zoom or Facetime and read it together. 

Book donations—like the Harper Library Birthday Book Club—are another great way to honor “Read Across America Day” and are always welcome at local schools, libraries, and child care centers.    

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