‘Read Across America’ at Pottsgrove Different, Bigger

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – With the twin pressures of a pandemic and brutally cold winter weather, there may never be a better time or greater need for the silliness of Dr. Seuss. A large team of Pottsgrove School District elementary teachers is preparing a week-long celebration to deliver his whimsical take on story-telling, and that of other authors too, beginning Monday (March 1, 2021).

The district has conducted its annual “Read Across America” observance for more than a decade. In part the event, backed by the National Education Association, showcases the large body of work by famed children’s book author Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. He’s the man behind “The Cat in The Hat,” “Horton Hears A Who,” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” among dozens of other great reads for kids.

Next Tuesday (March 2) marks Geisel’s 116th birthday.

Dealing with coronavirus has changed things for Pottsgrove’s festivities – which run daily through Friday (March 5) – just as for everything else that once was “normal.” In years past community members, district administrators, and even players and coaches of Pottsgrove high school sports teams arrived, occasionally dressed in uniform or costume, to read aloud in-person to classes filled with eager young listeners.

For some, however, classes are virtual now, so assembling a full-bodied audience is daunting. Mask-covered readers’ mouths also make it difficult to be heard and understood. “Not to worry,” the organizers might say, “we’ll find, we’ll find, we’ll find another way!” Sure enough, with Seussical inventiveness, they have.

Some of the same guests who read in past years are returning, and new ones will join too, but all are video-recording themselves as readers and sending those videos to the district. The recordings will be viewed during the week by all elementary-age (kindergarten through fifth grade) students at Lower Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, and Ringing Rocks elementaries, Lower Pottsgrove third-grade teacher Shari Costanzo reports.

Readers get to choose their own selections. The education association, which sponsors “Read Across America,” this year is recommending “books, authors, and teaching resources that promote diversity and inclusion,” and story choices likely will reflect the theme.

The week is filled with fun reading and writing exercises adapted for elementary students in either virtual or hybrid learning options. Tuesday will be the show piece. That’s when, Costanzo said:

  • Lower Pottsgrove is partnering with West Pottsgrove and Ringing Rocks to have Lower’s third-through-fifth-grade students read to the kindergarten-through-second-grade youngsters at West and Ringing via Zoom;
  • Pottsgrove High School seniors, football team members, and others participating in high school sports and activities are recording books that teachers also may access Tuesday; and
  • Other school employees, school board members, and administrators have also been asked to record themselves reading a picture book, or even a chapter book excerpt.

None of these activities would be possible, Costanzo acknowledges, without plenty of help. She said she’s grateful for those who assisted in the past, and is particularly proud of this year’s team of organizers. It is the largest yet, and now covers all elementary buildings.

Its members include Rebecca Puglia, third-grade teacher at Lower; Stephany Gerloff, second-grade teacher at West; Lauren Brittingham, reading specialist at Ringing Rocks; Sarah Matheny, librarian for West and Ringing; Laura Sweinhart, librarian for Lower; Jackie Arthur, reading specialist at Ringing; and Shandy Farin, reading specialist at West.

“All have made a huge effort to get this to work outside the box due to the pandemic,” Costanzo wrote in a Monday (Feb. 23) e-mail. “Cross your fingers this all works!,” she added.

To which Seuss might have replied, “No doubt, no doubt. The kids will all stand and happily shout!”

Pre-pandemic photo by Kids Association via Wikimedia Commons, used under a Creative Commons license
Read Across America logo from the National Education Association