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Tapping into young readers

March 06, 2004

Jackie Conley

Wearing red-and- white-striped hats made out of paper, about 175 St.

Finbar Parish School students gathered in the school's auditorium

this week to salute Dr. Seuss and celebrate Read Across America Day.

Vice Mayor Marsha Ramos was among the guest readers who shared

such Seuss classics as "The Cat in the Hat," "The Sneetches and Other

Stories," and "Captain Underpants" with their captive audience.

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"I prefer speaking in front of children," Ramos said. "When I read

to them, they are living in the moment with me."

Fourth-graders Sheridan Soderstrom, 10, and Elizabeth Pascual, 9,

said the best-selling children's author -- who would have turned 100

on Tuesday -- has inspired them to become writers when they grow up.

"He's a great writer, I love his books," Sheridan said.

Started by the National Education Assn. in 1998 as a way to get

kids excited about reading, Read Across America has become the

nation's largest reading event. The year-round program culminates

every year on or near Dr. Seuss's March 2 birthday.

"When children have a good foundation in reading, they do well in

life," said Lorraine Bellis-Mark, a St. Finbar parent who coordinated

the event. "We wanted to show the children that even adults enjoy

reading Dr. Seuss."

In addition to St. Finbar, students from several other Burbank

elementary schools took part in Read Across America activities over

the past couple of weeks.

Actress Amy Hill, who portrayed Mrs. Kwan in "The Cat in the Hat"

movie, read to students at Providencia Elementary, while students at

St. Robert Bellarmine School participated in "2 Cool 4 School," a

short-fiction story and illustration contest.

"The kids are learning," St. Robert's teacher and program founder

Katy Huntley said. "They might not realize it, but they are."

St. Finbar students, meanwhile, were rewarded with gift bags

containing among other things, pencils, coloring books, book markers

and note pads plus a coupon for a free meal at HomeTown Buffet

restaurant.

"This is a brilliant program," St. Finbar kindergarten teacher

Moira Graham said. "This brings a certain excitement and helps to

install the love of reading to children."

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