The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts March 10, 2006

They Can Read with Their Eyes Shut!
Zoomafala Zoo: Rachael Wylie, OC ‘05, has a funny hat, look at that.

And to think that I saw it on Mulber... Main Street. All the children were laughing and the projects were neat.

Theodore Seuss Geisel, more commonly known and loved as Dr. Seuss, wrote many of his books in rhyming anapestic tetrameter. But this is not what the children who flocked to the Oberlin Public Library on Saturday, March 4, had come to celebrate.

They had all come together in joy of this day, revering Dr. Seuss with a song and a play.

Two days earlier, March 2, had been Dr. Seuss’s birthday. And as if this alone weren’t cause for celebration, in 1998, the National Education Association created the Read Across America program, a “one-day event to celebrate the joy of reading.” They scheduled the event on Dr. Seuss’s birthday in order to intrigue young readers.

They found themselves liking the dish Sam detests; in love with the reading that did not mean tests.

The first Read Across America day involved America Reads tutors reading to children one-on-one while eating green cake, representative of Dr. Seuss’s famous green eggs and ham.

The fanfare with which Dr. Seuss Day was carried out here in Oberlin this year is indicative of how much the program has grown since its initiation. This was the seventh time the Oberlin Public Library has hosted the celebration.

Two students were running the event with ease; they helped things go smoothly, gave thoughts about trees.

Seniors Elana Riffle and Fiona Korwin-Pawlowski coordinated the event this year as their Winter Term project. Once Dr. Seuss Day had arrived, the two had put at least 150 hours into the endeavor.

“Fiona and I had been in America Reads since we were freshmen. I had never actually been to Dr. Seuss Day before, but I had worked at an awesome environmental education center in southern Rhode Island where we put on The Lorax every week for kids, so I decided to transpose it into an Oberlin context,” said Riffle.

The Lorax, which is a social commentary on protests against the 1920s Redwood deforestation, was put on not only for the appreciation of its literary wonders, but also as a subtle lesson in caring for the environment.“I also de-briefed The Lorax and tried to make the story applicable to kids’ lives,” said Riffle.

All the people who came were there helping the cause. The day carried on with much cause for applause.

The two student coordinators hoped that the day would emphasize how fun literacy can be. They were glad to see the day sponsored by many Oberlin businesses, and were impressed by how much the entire community was involved in this festive day of learning. The Cleveland Cavaliers donated a free Dr. Seuss art kit for every child, and their mascot, Moondog, visited with all who came. Also visiting and entertaining the kids was retired Harlem Globetrotter Derek Polk.

So Nothing But Treble was singing a tune, and the Sunshine Scouts made the audience swoon.

At the front entrance to the library, multicolored footsteps meandered through the various tables and signs near the circulation desk to a clearing where some chairs had been set up. The afternoon featured a few Oberlin College groups, including a capella singers Nothing But Treble and the improv comedy group the Sunshine Scouts. Kids were spilling off their parents laps and onto the floor; others had floated to the front of the crowd, where they lay with their chins cupped in their hands as the Sunshine Scouts bid them farewell.

“Thanks for coming! Read your books! So long!” said the animated group.

The children reacted with smiles and pleased looks on their painted faces. Different animals with brown and blonde pigtails, shepherded by adults in red and white striped top hats, scampered off toward craft tables and other activities.

The walls had been covered with pictures aplenty; they were drawn by the hands of Prospect Elementary.

Behind the area where many of the performances took place, the wall was quilted with drawings of the Prospect Elementary grades three and four Open Room. Fantastic names accompanied the exotic creatures featured in the artwork. “The Hairy Scary Berry Man,” “Dingy Flingy Singy Wingy,” “Fluffy Puffy Hoggle Poggle” and “Zoomafala Zoo” were only a few of the many extraordinary titles.

The schedule was packed with performances grand. Several Oberlin students sat lending a hand.

Another room was a merry-go-round of tables, each with its own Dr. Seuss or word-related activity. As children entered the room, they had the option of taking on the star machine, where they could acquire a star as Dr. Seuss’s famous Sneeches did.

The choices overwhelmed visitors. Fish for ideas with a magnetic pole that clicks onto words in a cloth pond. Make your own book with a table full of crayons, colored pencils and paper at your disposal. Write poetry with giant brightly-colored versions of the popular refrigerator magnetic poetry.

The kids knew that words were the fun of the game. They used them and learned them and were never the same.

“Kids can make magnetic poetry and not necessarily have to be grammatically correct, but rather take joy in creating words and phrases that they enjoy with the help from America Reads tutors,” said Riffle.

After completing each activity, the children were given star stickers. Once they had acquired five, they could go to a table where student volunteers were handing out free books and select one.

The children were able to discover many new worlds on Dr. Seuss Day: those of imagination, literature and community.

The children discovered new worlds one and all. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”


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