Clayton leaders read Dr. Seuss to local youths

Theodor Seuss Geisel's "Green Eggs and Ham" is the author's top book, according to Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley.

On Tuesday, the schools chief read the book to East Clayton Elementary School students, as the youths sat neatly.

"Do you like green eggs and ham?" Heatley said as he read from the book. "I don't like them, Sam I am. I do not like green eggs and ham."

The National Education Association celebrated the 106th birthday of Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss, on Tuesday with its annual Read Across America Day. As part of the celebration, the NEA encourages community leaders to visit elementary schools, to read books to children.

Locally, there were 140 elected officials, retired educators, school system employees, county government employees and parent volunteers who read Dr. Seuss books to fourth-graders throughout the county, according to School District Community Relations Liaison Rhonda Burnough.

"It, like our Day ONE celebration, is one of our signature events for the community," said Burnough, as she compared Read Across America Day to the school system's first day of school, during which community leaders welcome children back to school.

Elementary school teachers across the county celebrated Read Across America Day in different ways. Some simply hosted celebrity readers, while others went an extra step, and cooked green eggs and ham.

Heatley, who read to students at East Clayton and Jackson elementary schools, said it is important to have celebrations, such as National Read Across America Day, to get children to realize how important reading is to their futures. "It shows how much fun reading can be, and it tells them, anywhere you want to go, you can go there by reading a book," the superintendent said.

Another guest reader, Lt. Col. Mark McMillion, an inspector general for the U.S. Army Garrison based out of Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem, said the ability to read is one of the most important things in his life. "It probably ranks right after food, water and family," he said. "I look at it this way, the same way gas makes a car go, I think reading makes the brain go."

One of the students Heatley and McMillion read to, East Clayton fourth-grader, Justin Rice, 9, said reading already plays an important role in his daily life. "I have to read my homework, and, sometimes, I have to read the instructions on how to do my homework," he said.

Several students said they appreciated their guests coming to their classes to read to them. "I liked how they stopped what they were doing to show us kids some appreciation," said East Clayton fourth-grader, Jalyn Brown, 9.

East Clayton Elementary School fourth-grader, Brandon Mercer, 10, and Jackson Elementary School fourth-grader, Gesselle Gonzalez, 9, got unique opportunities to read with Heatley. Mercer read "Green Eggs and Ham" with the superintendent, while Gonzalez got to do a co-reading of "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" with the county's schools chief.

"It was fun reading with the superintendent; I've never gotten to do that before," Gonzalez said.

"It felt fun to read with the superintendent, because he's the person that's over all the schools in Clayton County," Mercer said. "He read better than I did, but I'm going to work on that."