OFFBEAT: Children's books can have life-long influence at early age

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-03-03T00:00:00Z 2014-03-03T20:09:08Z OFFBEAT: Children's books can have life-long influence at early ageBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Yesterday marked the 110th birthday for Theodor Seuss Geisel, the American writer, poet and cartoonist widely known for his children's books written and illustrated as Dr. Seuss. He died at age 87 in 1991.

In recent years, his birthday has been honored in classrooms around the country for a page-by-page celebration called "Read Across America Week."

Sally Santellano, the librarian for St. Paul Catholic Elementary School in Valparaiso invited me to be part of a special event last Friday for classroom reading and literacy activities.

Friday's week-long culminating event was Celebrity Guest Reader Day.

A group of selected notables from the area were invited to be assigned to classrooms to read a short children's book of our choosing.

"Our desire is to find another way to encourage the students to enjoy reading, interact with important people, and see the importance of literacy skills in the world," Santellano said.

Earlier last week, the students teamed up for "Door Decorating Monday," with each class brainstorming for a book or author themed decoration for the outside of each classroom door.

Tuesday was "Buddy Up and Read Tuesday," featuring students in grades 3 to 5 reading a short book aloud to a buddy or two in grades K-2,

Wednesday's fun included a "Fox in Socks" theme, with students asked to wear "silly socks" with their uniforms in tribute to Dr. Seuss' 1965 still-popular book "Fox in Socks."

At Friday's Celebrity Guest Reader Day, I was joined by Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, Valparaiso University's women's basketball Coach Tracy Dorow, Z107.1 radio personality Karl Berner, local published author Carolie Warren ("But, Mama, How come Grandpa Gets To?"), Valparaiso University men's basketball star Christopher Artis, Valparaiso Police Department Captain Michael DeHaven and his colleague, school resource Officer Jim Tobey, among other local luminaries.

Many of the day's special guests opted to read one of Dr. Seuss' great works, such as Sen. Charbonneau reading "Oh, the Places You'll Go!," published by Random House on Jan. 22, 1990, making it the last book published before Dr. Suess' death. (The book concerns the journey of life and its challenges.)

However, I decided to bring one of my own special books from my own childhood. While in 2nd grade, in 1977, my parents gave me $1 to purchase a book from our school's book fair. I selected the 64-page paperback "Headlines" (1977 Dell/Yearling Books) by Malcolm Hall with illustrations by Wallace Tripp. It's about a group of animals who run their own newspaper, featuring Theodore Cat as the "fat cat" editor-in-chief and Gertrude Flamingo as the society page editor.  I still treasure this little book and believe it certainly played an early factor in my interest to become a newspaper reporter.

This little dog-eared page books is also proof of the power and influence of reading and imagination at an early age.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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