Kids read to celebrate special day

Linda Barrow, dressed as the Cat in the Hat from the Dr. Seuss books, reads to a class in the school library of Elvin Hill Elementary School in Columbiana as part of the school's Read Across America festivities. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Students at Elvin Hill Elementary School had a different school day than normal March 2.

Like thousands of students across the country, Elvin Hill students celebrated “Read Across America Day” which is held every year on Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Dr. Seuss would have turned 107.

“This has been a special day,” Elvin Hill Principal Betsy Hillman said.

Volunteers from Shelby County High School including Brianna Buie, center, help give out treats to the children of Elvin Hill Elementary School in Columbiana as Officer Sasha Lilly-Knighten, right, reads them Dr. Seuss' book "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut." (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

In addition to having special guests come to the school to read to the students, the school also allowed students and teachers to dress up as their favorite book characters.

First-grade teachers, for example, dressed up as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

In the morning, kindergarten and first-grade students, dressed as book characters and held a parade through the hallways as students from other grades looked on.

“Today, everything is all about reading,” said first-grade teacher Lauren Ruston, who was dressed as Snow White. “It’s definitely been a wild day – wild but a lot of fun. It’s all about reading, so the kids are enjoying it.”

While the students knew about the costumes, parade and reading, they didn’t know they’d get to pick up a couple free books to take home.

Each student got to pick out a book from a stack of hundreds displayed in the school’s cafeteria. The books were donated through Project Share-A-Story. Fourth and fifth-grade students from Chelsea Intermediate School donated the books to Elvin Hill, among other schools and libraries.

“They didn’t know about this,” Ruston said. “This was a new surprise for them today, so they were very excited.”

Seventeen volunteers, from local business professionals to Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe, volunteered their time to read a story to the students.

Students in Lauren Ruston's First Grade class at Elvin Hill Elementary School in Columbiana line up against a wall to peruse their newly acquired books. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

For a third consecutive year, Columbiana Police Sgt. Sasha Lilly-Knighten was one of those volunteers.

“Each year I try to do something different with the kids to keep them motivated and try to keep them reading,” Lilly-Knighten said. “It’s an honor for me. That just shows how much respect they have for me, to ask me to come out and read for them.”

After she finished reading a Dr. Seuss book to the students in the library, Lilly-Knighten stressed the importance of reading to the students.

“Reading is a really important tool you’re going to need as you grow up,” she told the students, emphasizing to the students that they should pay close attention when teachers and parents read to them.