March is always a fun-filled month of activities to celebrate reading with learners and their families. The National Education Association’s “Read Across America” initiative has always been a big part of this celebration. National Read Across America Day on March 2, which corresponds with Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, is the day to kick-off a month of reading events at our schools.
It is important to note that as of August 31, 2019, the National Education Association (NEA) no longer has a licensing agreement with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Thus, NEA members and affiliates can no longer use the old “Read Across America” logo, which featured the Cat in the Hat. You can find the details and the new logo here: https://www.nea.org/resource-library/raa-logo-usage-guidelines
The National Education Association (NEA) website has a wealth of information about “Read Across America,” including Event Ideas, Virtual Event Ideas, and a Promotional Toolkit. NEA also has information about “Creating and Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers.” They have a calendar of 12 monthly themes for the 2020-2021 school year and corresponding recommended books and teaching activities to promote diversity and inclusion. For instance, the theme for March 2021 is to Cultivate Compassion, and recommended books include: Tiara’s Hat Parade by Kelly Starling Lyons (Elementary); Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (Middle Grade); and They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott (Young Adult).
As advocacy chairperson for the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME), I am always thinking about how we can advocate for our students and our profession. March is Reading Month is a perfect time to combine our celebration with advocacy. It is easy to do! You can connect your celebration with advocacy by inviting guest readers and promoting your event.
Guest Readers. Whether you are in person or virtual, you can invite school board members and legislators to read to your students. Officials typically love to connect with students and reading aloud to them is an easy way to do so. Tips:
- If you are virtual or if your school is limiting visitors, you can have the official record their read-aloud that you can then play for students.
- Think that this is only for elementary students? Not so. You can have an official read a chapter of a class novel or book talk about a book that was influential for them or have them read a picture book that would have meaning for secondary school students. Jillian Heise’s #ClassroomBookADay website has lots of recommendations for picture books for everyone.
- Your state’s legislature website typically has a tool to find your legislator by address. Use your school’s address to find your state legislator’s contact information to invite them. A sample letter put together by MAME’s advocacy committee (with significant input from East Detroit School Librarian Patrick Taylor) for Michigan school librarians can be found here.
- Although not absolutely necessary, include a handout about your school library or school libraries in your state with your invite. Educating officials about the importance of school libraries to our students is a part of advocacy. A handout developed by the MAME advocacy committee can be found here: bit.ly/essentialSL.
- Many officials may have a book in mind to read; however, have a variety of recommendations handy. Recommend books that you believe will help the official connect with your students.
- Remember to follow up and thank the official for participating in your event. Notes from students are always appreciated.
Promote Your Event. You can promote your reading celebration by presenting to your school board, writing a press release or letter to the editor for your local newspaper, or putting an article in your school newsletter. Tips:
- If you are successful in having an official read to your students, that is a great event to highlight in a press release. Here is a simple press release sample.
- The NEA’s Promotional Toolkit has great examples and resources for promoting your event.
- Make sure to include the connection between the school library and reading in your promotional articles and materials.
What are you doing in your library for “March Is Reading Month”? How are you connecting your celebration with advocacy for the library? I’d love to hear from you. You can share your stories in the comments section below.