Dr. Seuss opened doors

Published 12:11 pm Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sighed Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg:

“I’m tired and I’m bored

And I’ve kinks in my leg

From sitting, just sitting here day after day.

It’s work! How I hate it!

I’d much rather play!

I’d take a vacation, fly off for a rest

If I could find someone to stay on my nest!

If I could find someone, I’d fly away-free…”

— “Horton Hatches The Egg”

by Dr. Seuss

It’s not every day I get to start my day with Dr. Seuss, but I did on Friday when I was given the opportunity to read to 15 or so bright-eyed third-graders at S.P. Morton Elementary School.

Celebrating what would have been the 109th birthday of the iconic children’s book author, schools all across the country this week invited guests to read some of his most celebrated works. The 30 minutes I spent reading was easily the best part of my week.

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years trying to figure out how I, how we, can work with our schools to make them a better place for our children. Trying to figure out the types of partnerships that can be arranged between the schools and the business community to provide the additional resources they need.

How to get school systems and local governments to cooperate more to squeeze every ounce of operational efficiency out of shrinking budgets and smaller staffs. How to shine a light on public education to make more people aware of what an incredibly important resource it is for not only ours, but every community.

And, like many of you, I had reached a point of frustration because in my search for the silver bullet, the magic elixir that will “fix” public education, I had come to the conclusion that there isn’t one.

The harsh reality of the struggle many of our schools face is that they are trying to teach children who arrive in kindergarten with few of the basic competencies they need to learn and grow in a classroom environment. And when they show up already lagging behind, it is extremely difficult for any teacher, no matter how skilled or experienced, to help them catch up. There is no new policy or method of teaching that can overcome that.

So, back to Dr. Seuss and my reading experience this week. For 30 minutes on Friday, I had the undivided attention of an entire classroom of young children who were eager to listen and learn. Of course, a good Dr. Seuss book has a magical way of grabbing a child’s attention.

But for 30 minutes, it didn’t matter if those children had parents who read to them at home or instilled in them a sense of how important it is to want to learn or have the financial resources necessary to provide them with everything they need.

And that’s when it occurred to me, right there in the middle of reading a story about an elephant that climbs a tree to look after his friend’s egg, that the silver bullet I had been searching for was to simply keep reading to them. And I plan to. I hope some of you will join me.

TONY CLARK is the associate publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.