Da’Kinyah Smith wore her Dr. Seuss inspired paper top hat as she intently listened to classmate Brianna Smith read the book “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”
“When I was little, I read a lot, and I got good grades because I read,” the 10-year-old fourth grader said, adding her mom read to her every night.
Da’Kinyah was one of 22 students at the Albert "Ray" Massey Recreation Center Friday afternoon for Gainesville’s Foundations Academy’s first Read Across America Day. The academy is an after-school program funded by the city’s parks, recreation and cultural affairs department, said Ben Dillard, the department’s recreation supervisor.
Read Across America Day is a national event meant to foster reading that is held annually on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2, Dillard said.
“Dr. Seuss brings the fun back into reading,” Dillard, 51, said. “He’s interesting and colorful and poetic.”
The after-school program is budgeted at $2.5 million a year, which goes to expenses such as staff salaries, electricity bills and more, Dillard said. About $5,000 was spent on books and other costs related to Read Across America Day.
Mary Harker, the program coordinator for education, said the after-school program is held at four locations, which is where the Read Across America Day events were also held.
The locations included the Massey Center, Clarence R. Kelly Community Center, Eastside Community Center and Porters Community Center, Harker said. Each center can hold a maximum of 40 kids. During the week, the program saw about 100 kids across the locations.
On Friday, the kids watched a Dr. Seuss movie – “The Lorax” or “The Cat in the Hat.”
At the Massey Center, the children had separated into small groups, and one child in each group volunteered to read a Dr. Seuss book to the others. After reading in groups, the kids came back together to watch “The Cat in the Hat” live action movie while munching on green eggs (made with food coloring) and ham.
At the event, children do read Dr. Seuss books and learn about him, but their activities aren’t entirely centered around the author, Harker said.
In the week leading up to the event, students in the program, from first to eighth grade, also did art projects, small book reports and discussed books, she said.
The kids also received a free book. A variety of books were ordered so they could choose one that peaked their interest, Harker said.
“Don’t just give them a book and tell them, ‘here, read,’” Harker said. “We want to promote literacy and encourage reading.”
Foundations Academy is free to students who receive free or reduced lunch at school, Harker said. If not, the regular fee is $18.50 a week for city residents and $27.50 for non-city residents.
“This hopefully gets kids to have an interest in reading,” she said. “Personally, I struggled reading as a kid. In my adult life, I’ve learned the importance of it, and I’ve instilled that in my own children.”