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Oakland International Community School

Oakland students don pajamas in honor of Dr. Seuss on Read Across America Day

on March 3, 2011

Yo Ann Martinez had the attention of dozens of squirming students at the International Community School elementary school in East Oakland. But as soon as the words “free books” left her mouth, an auditorium full of pajama-clad children jumped up from their seats and raced to get in line for grab bags full of reading materials and science quizzes.

This pajama scrum followed an afternoon of reading, winning prizes, and meeting literary and television superstar the Cat in the Hat. As part of national Read Across America Day, on Wednesday the International Community School put on the Dr. Seuss pajama party—with the help of local PBS affiliate KQED—during the time when their after school program normally meets. The station presents the animated children’s show “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That,” which features the legendary cat with a focus on science.

Started by the National Education Association, Read Across America Day falls once a year nationwide, on Dr. Seuss’s birthday. At International Community School, the pajama party started out with an appearance by a costumed avatar of the Cat himself (the real deal if you ask any of the students), branched off into story time in each of the Kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms, and culminated in a chance to win prizes to take pictures with the star of the show.

The event welcomed parents, and Martinez, a former preschool teacher with a background in bilingual education, said the event showed parents how reading to children in English and asking questions in Spanish develops vocabulary. Martinez, who develops early literacy strategies for KQED, said she wants parents to know that “we want the best chance for these guys.” Literacy tools from KQED supplement the International Community School’s after-school program, and build off the bilingual education many of the students receive during the day.

International Community School’s after-school program director Javier Hurtado said the special reading event was a success, and five-year-old kindergartner Layla Dueñas seemed to agree. After a long afternoon of reading events, she got to meet the Cat in the Hat and pose for a picture. As her mother Alejandra Cruz took a cell phone picture, the proud Layla beamed front and center between two friends.

But for Hurtado, the Cat was just a way to promote the theme of the day: reading. His takeaway from the day: “Every student got to take home a free, brand new book.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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