Cat in the Hat comes to Plainfield
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Mon., Mar. 7, 2011
About 150 people turned out for the annual Dr. Seuss birthday party on March 3. Sponsored by the Plainfield Family Resource Center, the event was part of The National Education Association’s Read across America celebration of reading. The event coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss, the famous author and illustrator of more than 60 children’s books.
Young children moved around the tables set up in the auditorium. They made their own green eggs with ham. Some children colored or painted. Several children ran gleefully through the room. Parents spread blankets on the floor. They snapped photos. Two students dressed as Thing 1, and the Cat in the Hat read aloud to a group of children. Myra Ambrogi scooted around the room gathering empty juice boxes and crumpled granola bar wrappers. Ambrogi is a coordinator at the Plainfield Family Resource.
“The tables are a way of connecting the kids to activities that draw them into stories,” she said. “It’s important for kids to read at an early age and associate it with happy things.”
From all appearances, the children were happy. The community was out in force for them. Local high school students from the National Honor Society helped with the activities. Children’s recording artist Maria Sangiolo sang on stage for them. Local artists and illustrators were also present.
Seventh grade author August Edwards, who has three published books to her name, wrote a story specifically for the event. “We called her and asked her to write a book for us,” Ambrogi said. “She even illustrated it.” The story was about Harry the Hamster. “So we took a picture of Harry and the kids painted it to give them the connection to the story,” Ambrogi said.
There was a table on maple sugaring and how the syrup is made. The Family Resource Center put together information on barns because barns are a big part of New England culture, she said. The Last Green Valley put together a brochure on Connecticut Waterways and made a canoe out of cardboard with milk crate seats. There weren’t enough seats to hold all the kids that wanted to sit inside. There was a table on nutmeg, because Connecticut is the nutmeg state, she said. “There’s probably not a lot of reading going on here tonight, but it helps connect them to books and stories.”
There certainly wasn’t a lot of reading going on. Kids got their hands sticky making green eggs and ham. They sat transfixed as Thing 1 in a bright blue wig read to them. They crowded the stage where Maria Sangiolo sang to them on her guitar. They ran circles around their parents and chased one another through the room. It was exactly the sort of fun that Seuss wanted his stories to be associated with.
His book, The Cat in the Hat was written using 236 simple words, an interesting story line and a rather sophisticated rhyming meter. His books have sold over 222 million copies and have been translated into more than 15 languages.
Amy Parcinski from the Family Resource Center said, “It’s a critical piece to get kids to read when they are relaxed and happy. Kids have to deal with so much competition from the media, it’s hard to find opportunities to read. You have to draw them into reading.”
According to the NEA, children who are motivated to read do better in school. “When kids start reading early,” Parcinski said, “they are much more likely to be reading at or above their grade level when they start school.” She suggested parents make sure that their child reads for at least 20 minutes a day. “You can spread that out in any time increment,” she explained. “You can read for five minutes in morning and seven minutes in the afternoon and the rest just before going to bed.” It’s like exercise, she said, a little bit every day keeps you healthy.
“The big piece is creating a love for books,” she said. “It’s good to have a range of books around.” Find books that your children like, she suggested. “Some kids like story books, some kids don’t like fiction; they want the train and truck books. Some kids like the pop-ups. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. If they hate a book, find a book they like.”
She suggested that parents use their imagination to create opportunities for children to read. If a child likes football, put pictures of footballs on the refrigerator. Extend their ability to connect to the written word without making it feel like a punishment. If they hate to read, you have to start with tiny pieces, she said. Cut out pictures from magazines. One woman said her son didn’t like reading on his own until he was older. Some kids take longer than others, she said.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to promote is to keep everyone interested in reading,” Parcinski said. She pointed to a collection of tables near the entry that were covered with books. Kindergarten and pre-school collections, poetry and chapter books lay spread out like a smorgasbord for readers. Every child took one book home.