On March 1, at 2:30 p.m., a hush was supposed to fall across the school as everyone dropped what they were doing and enjoyed 15 minutes of reading for Read Across America Day (RAAD), a national tradition to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
But fast forward to 2:45 p.m. and scarcely a book had been opened in the high school.
Across the 11 high-school classrooms in session at the time, only two participated in the supposedly schoolwide event.
When the clock struck 2:30, the freshmen and sophomores in Patricia Dias’s Algebra II Honors class kept working on their math.
“You can read across America or graph across America,” Dias said, smiling.
Given the option of reading or doing problems, the majority of the students chose to stick with math.
In AP Physics B, Glenn Mangold told his students to read at the designated time.When one asked if they could read their notes. Mangold said it was up to them.
In past years former lower-school librarian Cary Kelly made an announcement through the PA system, prompting the whole school to start reading. Every year Kelly dressed up as the “Cat in the Hat,” complete with the top hat. This year, though, her familiar meow did not sound throughout the classrooms.
“We missed not having Ms. Kelly do the ‘Cat in the Hat’ voice and announcement,” sixth-grade teacher Ed Bolman said.
Still, some classrooms were reading.
Daniel Neukom’s freshman history class read for the entire 15 minutes. And Patricia Fels read aloud from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” in her English class.
Although few high-school classrooms participated in the schoolwide read, “the students seemed to be even more enthusiastic about (the day) than in previous years,” librarian Joanne Melinson said.
Throughout the day, soft classical music and lava lamps created a quiet reading environment in the library. Students sat on pillows or in beanbag chairs. Cookies, cheese and crackers, coffee and chai were offered for the staff in the cafe set up in the librarians’ office.
And in contrast to the high school, most of the middle school participated.
English teacher Lauren LaMay’s students are required to bring independent reading to class every day, “so I don’t have to go out of my way for Read Across America Day,” LaMay said.
Middle-school math teacher Laura Monahan’s class read for the 15 minutes as well.
“We sprawled out across the room, and we all read our own independent books,” Monahan said. “We had people lying under the tables, on the floors, across the tables.”
One idea to increase involvement in RAAD came from high-school English teacher Jane Bauman.
“I would find it easier if the reading period were in just one class (rather than divided between two class periods). In fact, I would probably have a reading period in both classes in order to even them out,” she said.
But Sue Nellis, head of high school, explained that the reading time was organized between two periods so as to not take away too much time from any one class.