By Ross Markman
On Friday, students in Havre and beyond will come to school wearing oversized, red-and-white striped hats, dine on breakfasts of green eggs and ham, and have a chance to hone their tongue-twisting skills, all to pay homage to Theodore Seuss Geisel, a man we all know as Dr. Seuss.
Saturday would be Seuss' 98th birthday, but millions will celebrate a day early, as the author and illustrator is the cornerstone of the National Education Association's fifth annual Read Across America day.
Students and teachers will recognize the Pulitzer Prize and three-time Academy Award winner, who died in 1991. They'll honor the author of such books as "The Cat in the Hat," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and "The Lorax."
But more importantly, they'll honor the written word and the fact that they can read it.
It's a day being touted by NEA president Bob Chase as "the reading-est day this country has ever seen."
"It's not just for kids, it's for parents," added Barbara Parker, Read Across America's senior press officer. "We'd like for every child and for every adult to be in the company of a book that day.
"We think it's important to celebrate reading," Parker added. "Not only is it fun, it's also necessary."
Schools in Havre seem to agree.
At Sunnyside Intermediate School, fourth- and fifth-graders will begin the reading party with a birthday cake served by librarian ShirLee Perrodin, principal Linda Kaze said. Teachers will wear tall, colorful hats representative of a cat in a hat, that is.
The students will then switch teachers, Kaze said.
Fourth-grade teachers will read a Seuss book to fifth-graders and fifth-grade teachers will read a Seuss story to fourth-graders.
Students from SUNS, the Havre school district's alternative high school, will also read to the kids, Kaze said.
At Highland Park Early Primary School, kindergartners and first-graders will not only read Dr. Seuss books this week, they will vote on the one they like best.
"We'll be making a graph where the kids will vote on their favorite," principal Lisa Stroh said.
Highland Park students will also celebrate on Friday by wearing Cat in the Hat badges and with a birthday cake at lunchtime.
"It's important, because we read so many Dr. Seuss books and he is such an icon and a model for our students. I think it's really good for kids to celebrate good authors," Stroh said.
Other schools like Lincoln-McKinley Primary and Havre Middle School are not organizing schoolwide events Friday.
"What we're doing is individual things within teachers' own classrooms," said Vance Blatter, principal of Havre Middle School. "It's more popular with the younger age group than with our age group."
Karen Swenson, principal at Lincoln-McKinley, said her school celebrated Seuss' birthday during "I Love to Read Week" last week. The school will have SUNS students reading to the second- and third-graders on Friday, Swenson said.
Havre High School, meanwhile, has been making announcements each morning this month, advising kids to exercise their right to read.
"On Valentine's Day, the announcement told kids to read to someone special," English teacher Peggy Safley said, adding that it's unlikely the high school will do something special for Seuss' birthday.
"I haven't talked to any (teachers) who are doing something," she said.
According to Parker, more than 35 million people participated in Read Across America last year, in everything from reading pajama parties to parades.
This year's celebration will be headlined by country music singer Garth Brooks, who will travel to Washington, D.C., Friday for a morning of reading at the Library of Congress.
"The first year we had (former baseball player) Cal Ripken Jr. and last year we had (actor) Morgan Freeman. They have actually come to us and said, What can we do? This is important,'" Parker said.
Reading, though, should not only be educational, it should also be entertaining, she added.
"We wanted something fun to tie it into. And there's nothing more fun than Dr. Seuss," Parker said.