Event promotes reading


West Valley schools participate in Read Across America

Schools in the West Valley are among those participating in Read Across America events this month to promote literacy.

The events, sponsored by the National Education Association, were timed to coincide with the March 2 birthday of the late Theodore Geisel, better known as children’s book author Dr. Seuss.

The Valley of the Sun United Way provided volunteers to read in third-grade classrooms at three schools in the Avondale Elementary School District.

Avondale Councilman Lorenzo Sierra read in classrooms March 3 at Eliseo C. Felix School.

“I had a great time doing it,” Sierra said of the task that’s part of his efforts to promote reading, especially for the underprivileged.

“I would be remiss if I wasn’t doing everything I could,” he said. “Books really opened up the world to me.”

It’s the fifth year the United Way has been involved in the project, according to Dawn Gerundo, the agency’s director of education.

“We’re committed to early literacy,” she said.

United Way selects classrooms to participate in the project based on third-grade reading scores, a population of English language learners and a high number of pupils qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, Gerundo said.

Third grade is a key time in the life of a reader, because “if they’re able to read by third grade, they’re going to be more successful,” she said.

Volunteer readers wear red and white stovepipe hats made famous from Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat.

Each pupil is given a copy of the book that’s read in the classroom.

Among the 20 schools in the Valley where 100 United Way volunteers read to pupils were Michael Anderson and Lattie Coor schools in Avondale.

United Way estimates its efforts will reach 6,000 pupils, including 1,200 in Avondale.

Sierra and Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise also read to pupils at Barbara B. Robey Elementary in the Litchfield Elementary School District.

The National Education Association established Read Across America in 1997. This year’s events are estimated to involve 45 million pupils, educators and parents nationwide.

Valley of the Sun United Way also participates in other literacy programs, including partnering with Avondale’s annual KidFest.

Glenn Gullickson can be reached at ggullickson@westvalleyview.com.