“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.” -- Dr. Seuss
In the spring of 1998, in a classroom at the old Bruce Elementary School on Houston Avenue, second-grade teacher Kerrie Welch asked her students for an example of a noun.
A little girl raised her hand.
“Mr. Ed Grisamore,” she said.
That would be me.
For seven months, I had been faithfully reading to that class every Wednesday. They had gotten to know me, even without my name badge.
I read them Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Margaret Wise Brown, Chris Van Allsburg, P.K. Hallinan and John Burningham.
We talked. We bonded. Some Wednesdays I stayed and had lunch with them in the cafeteria.
I had signed up as a volunteer with a national program known as Rolling Readers. It had been introduced in the Bibb schools a year earlier. It targeted Title I schools, where the children often come from homes where books are not opened and reading is not encouraged.
Yes, I was a noun.
Place me with a verb and together we made a difference.
Over the past 17 years, I have read regularly at many schools -- from Lane to Tinsley to Alexander II to Morgan and Sonny Carter. I have been asked to participate as a guest reader at more than a dozen other schools in Macon, Warner Robins and Perry.
Sometimes I have read stories to the students as they sat quietly in their desks. Other times they have gathered cross-legged on the floor, and I have had to turn the book like an oscillating fan, so everybody could see the pictures.
This year, I have been reading to both second-grade classes at L.H. Williams Elementary. I go every Monday at lunch, alternating between teachers Stephanie Key and Denna Bradford. I can truly say it is one of my favorite times of the week.
Today is the annual Read Across America Day, an event promoted by the National Education Association. The goal is to “build readers” across the nation in honor of Theodor Geisel’s birthday on March 2, 1904.
Geisel was one of my heroes, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. In honor of this day, I will read the recommended Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its publication this year.
Reading to children for one day certainly won’t fix the problem or curb the startling reality that we are raising a generation of non-readers, and probably the several generations before it.
That’s why I am committed to staying in the trenches, along with others, with tireless devotion to reading stories and reaching children.
I am a busy guy with a career that pulls me in every direction. On most days, I am a moving target. But I have learned you never have time for anything. You have to make time for everything.
Today’s kids watch television and play video games. They are locked onto computers and are fixated with cell phones. It is not entirely their fault. We have given them technology without balancing it with fundamentals.
To be so plugged in, they are so very disconnected. There is no app for the bricks-and-mortar approach of encouraging them to hold a book in their hands and the immeasurable joy of having someone read it to them.
We throw money at our educational system. We scratch our heads and tweak the curriculum, with hopes of producing revolutionary results.
Volunteer 30 minutes every week to read to a class of elementary school children. If you can’t read once a week, commit to twice a month.
Be the noun. And the verb.
Contact Gris at 744-4275.