Suess on the loose

Green eggs and ham were on the menu at Coupeville Elementary School Tuesday.

No, it wasn’t a federal cost-saving effort to reclassify eggs as vegetables — it was in honor of what would have been the venerable Dr. Suess’s 100th birthday.

“It’s a pretty big deal at this school,” Principal Glenda Merwine said.

North Whidbey Island schools celebrated the birthday of Theodor Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Suess, as part of the National Education Association’s annual “Read Across America” day.

Coupeville started the celebration a day early, with an all-school assembly Monday featuring magician Toby Wessel and “Reading is Magic.”

The entire school body sat enthralled while Wessel worked his magic on them. They probably didn’t even realize they were being introduced to literature and poetry.

As Wessel discussed “The Real Book of Stars,” sand disappeared from his hand and reappeared in a light bulb.

A recitation of poetry by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, in Spanish, was punctuated with shredded tissue paper turned into paper doves.

Teacher Susan Marchese and several students gamely acted as assistants to the magician, while a “Where the Wild Things Are” poster urged students to read.

“Reading 20 minutes every day is one of the best things you can do in your life,” Wessel told the students at the end of his show.

Oak Harbor schools marked the day in a variety of ways, from a “little readers’ theater” at Clover Valley Elementary and a family night of reading and events at Crescent Harbor to a book exchange at Olympic View and an outdoor “extravaganza” at Broad View Elementary.

All schools participated in the nation-wide “drop everything and read” at 9:30 a.m.

Organizers of the event at Broad View, teachers Jan Ernst and Charlene Amersbach, were grateful for Tuesday’s spring-like weather.

Jan’s husband Ron Ernst read to students in a “Sneeches” tent on the front lawn of the school, where the book was, of course, “The Sneetches.” He had a star on his belly, while the students mostly had “no stars on thars.”

Students in kindergarten through third grade buzzed from classroom to classroom, making “Cat in the Hat” hats and “I Wish I Had Duck Feet” feet, playing with goopy “oobleck” or making scary Grinch masks.

Volunteer Ann Ghezzi came dressed in an adult-size copy of “Green Eggs and Ham.” A fish pond held more than “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Third grade students paired up with kindergarteners to read them their favorite Dr. Suess book.

The children were obviously wound up from all the activity, but Jan Ernst said it was worth it.

“It gives them a love of reading,” she said.

Broad View Principal Joyce Swanson wore a Cat in the Hat tie and stovepipe hat that were the envy of all the students, and maybe a few teachers.

Oak Harbor School Board President Vicki Harring took a turn in the library reading to fourth graders. She chose “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.”

“I don’t remember reading Dr. Suess as a child, but I know my daughter loved him,” she said.

Theodor Geisel died in 1991 at the age of 87, but his characters live on in over 500 million copies of his 44 books, in 21 languages. No childhood is complete without the tales of the incorrigible Cat in the Hat, the Who-hearing Horton, or the tree-speaking Lorax. With the annual Read Across America coinciding with his birthday, schools have the perfect reason to celebrate his memory every year.

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