John Muir Elementary students look through free books during the school’s Family Literacy Night that celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Courtesy of John Muir Elementary School

John Muir Elementary students look through free books during the school’s Family Literacy Night that celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Courtesy of John Muir Elementary School

Oh, the places they’ll go

John Muir students celebrate literacy as teachers prepare them for the future.

From the Cat in the Hat to Sam-I-Am, Dr. Seuss imagined iconic characters and whimsical tongue twisters that ignited the imaginations of millions across multiple generations.

Growing readers from John Muir Elementary celebrated the nonsensical poet and his beloved characters last week during Family Literacy Night. The celebration featured numerous literacy activities, a book fair, book giveaway, free pizza and a cupcake collage to honor Seuss on the eve of his birthday.

“Family Literacy Night is our opportunity to celebrate with families the importance of being strong readers, writers and thinkers,” principal Jeff DeGallier said. “We appreciate the work and effort our students make every day to develop these critical skills.”

Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, Seuss published his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” in 1937 and wrote dozens more before publishing “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — the final Dr. Seuss book published before his death in 1991.

While many of his books take place in imaginary worlds, Seuss often embedded real-life lessons for young children to learn. The lessons ranged from a simple encouragement to try new things in “Green Eggs and Ham,” to an anti-discrimination mantra in “Horton Hears a Who.”

Family Literacy Night at John Muir is an annual event that consistently falls near Seuss’s birthday. While Seuss is the major theme every year, each event celebrates a particular book that inspires multiple arts and craft activities and literacy games that students can take home.

This year’s theme was “Go, Dog Go!” by P.D. Eastman, a protégé and colleague of Seuss. Buzz Anderson, husband of John Muir secretary Gail Anderson, designed a 1,000 cupcake art collage that treated more than 300 families that attended the Family Literacy Night.

“Literacy skills are so important for students and often times families don’t know how to help at home,” said Whitney Blackstone, an intervention teacher at John Muir. “The simplest games can be super fun and can be used at home.”

She works with kids from kindergarten to fifth grade in math and reading through a district program called Safety Net, which aims to assist students who fall short of district academic standards.

“Our job here is to lay that foundation and make sure that they’re ready for all their other schooling,” Blackstone said. “Reading is part of every single job.”

John Muir students also participated in a two-week “Read-a-thon,” which featured multiple guest readers and accumulated nearly 1,166 hours of total reading time. Guest readers included Lake Washington School District superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce, Kingsgate librarian Jennifer Duffy, Redmond police officer Corey Stevens and veterinarian Dr. Mary Beth Cullen of Evergreen Veterinary Hospital in Kirkland.

Pierce concluded the Read-a-thon by reading “Let the Children March” to John Muir fifth graders, three hours before Family Literacy Night. Monica Clark-Robinson authored the book, which focuses on the Civil Rights movement from the perspective of several children.

Afterwards, the fifth graders asked Pierce various questions about her favorite Dr. Seuss book and her career.

“I still have Dr. Seuss books that I had when I was a kid…you can’t go wrong with ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’” Pierce said. “This is the fun part of my job when I get to do things like this…It’s a tough and rewarding job (but) my favorite thing about my job is the students.”

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