'Read Across America' promotes literacy among elementary students in Japan
March 7, 2012
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March 7, 2012) -- More than 40 volunteers from Camp Zama read books to students Monday at Arnn Elementary School in honor of an annual event that celebrates the birthday of Dr. Seuss, one of America's most famed children's authors.
"Read Across America," sponsored by the National Education Association, promotes literacy education and community enhancement, and regularly garners support from Soldiers, high school students and other guests from the community here.
During a kickoff ceremony at the school's gymnasium, Col. Richard Galvin, the staff judge advocate for U.S. Army Japan, recited the Reader's Oath to the students. Students from third through sixth grade raised their right hands and repeated the oath, pledging to "read every day and every night."
"The main purpose of this event is to encourage and promote reading, and we want that to carry over into all other aspects of [the students'] lives," said Missy Gingrich, the principal at Arnn. "All children today seem to spend a lot of time with something handheld, whether it's and iPad, and iPhone or games at their home -- but they have to be able to read to do that.
"Reading is just like playing sports or playing the piano; if you don't practice, your skill will not improve," Gingrich added. "So we truly emphasize reading at school. We also encourage parents to read books for their children every evening."
The volunteer readers, most of them wearing the tall red-and-white-striped hats made famous by the Seuss character the Cat in the Hat, included enlisted and officer leaders from the installation, and even varsity football players from Zama American High School. They each rotated through the classrooms, reciting to the students passages from classic Seuss titles, as well as from their own handpicked selections.
"This is a great opportunity because members of the community get to come out and support it; parents and even teenagers came out," said Col. Eric Tilley, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan. "Any time there is a chance for the community to come out like this and support literacy and reading to kids is always great.
"Reading is important at every level [of development]; the earlier, the better," Tilley added. "Reading is so fundamental and such a building block for everything that follows."
Arnn hosts various reading activities for an entire week to enhance and encourage reading among the students there. The event receives great support from the entire community and has made it a beloved tradition at the school, Gingrich said.
"I like reading, so today was a lot of fun," said Nate Ungetheim, 7, a first-grader at Arnn. "I liked the book [called] 'There's a Nightmare in My Closet.' My favorite Dr. Seuss book is 'There's a Wocket in My Pocket.'"