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Families camp out at school for reading program

March 03, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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Paramount elem.Families camp out at school for reading program

Youngsters crouched in a dark corner of the Paramount Elementary School gym Monday night as teachers read some of their favorite bedtime stories around a mock campfire.

A red light tucked under the stack of logs cast shadows on the walls as a story about owls unfolded.

In the room next door, Principal Joanne Hilton appeared as the popular Dr. Seuss character "The Cat in the Hat" and welcomed youngsters to the school for an evening of reading.

Those were just a few of the activities being conducted in more than 25 Washington County schools Monday as part of the first national Read Across America.

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Sponsored by the National Education Association, the event was held to encourage reading, especially among parents and their children.

When children read to their parents, they become more comfortable with the words they have learned in class. And when parents do the reading, children begin absorbing the sounds of words even though they might not be able to speak them, education experts say.

At Paramount, parents, some carrying sleeping bags, accompanied their youngsters to the event.

Cynthia Bayless said she has been reading to her sons Michael and Matthew "ever since they were in the womb."

"It's a life skill everyone needs," Hilton said.

Sometimes that's a hard lesson to teach.

According to the National Education Association, there has been a gradual decline in the number of older children who read outside of the classroom. One-third of 13-year-olds read for fun, but the number decreases as they get older, the NEA said.

Hilton said she believes one reason behind the numbers is that students are not shown how much fun reading can be.

At schools across the county, teachers gave away prizes, encouraged students to dress up as their favorite authors, and served ice cream sundaes to readers.

At Bester Elementary School, the Parent Teacher Association and the school purchased more than 600 books for the event. Each Bester student who took an adult to the school's Read Across America program Monday night got to select a book from the 600-volume collection to keep, said Principal William Wright.

Read Across America completed a literacy month at Fountaindale Elementary School. Students who brought calendars from home showing they read with their parents at least 15 times during the month and for at least 10 minutes per session, received prizes, said Principal Sue Gordon.

Across the country, millions of teachers and others participated in Read Across America.

Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., the event's national chairman, was scheduled to lead off the event by reading to several Fort Lauderdale students at the Orioles' spring training site.

The event was held on the birthday of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, who brought children's books to life with his humorous, off the wall characters.

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