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The Wheels on the Bus Go Read, Read, Read

CEA Executive Director Donald Williams visits Putnam Elementary School, where students chose their own books to take home and share with their families.

This morning kicked off the Connecticut Education Foundation’s 2018 Read Across America Reading Bus Tour, featuring a 38-foot bus decorated with characters from popular Dr. Seuss books and outfitted with bookshelves, benches, carpeting, and 3,000 donated books.

Sponsored by CEF, the nonprofit arm of the Connecticut Education Association, the weeklong literacy event includes guest readers, costumed characters, literacy activities, and new books for nearly 1,000 students.

The colorful bus, which made its first stop at Putnam Elementary School this morning, visits a new town in northeastern Connecticut each day this week, moving next to Thompson, Brooklyn, Sterling, Killingly, and Plainfield.

Giving the gift of reading

Students choose their own books to read at home.

Motivating children to read is an important factor in nurturing student achievement and creating lifelong readers. Research has shown that children who spend more time reading do better in school.

“This bus tour is an exciting way to educate children about the importance of reading and to help them develop good reading skills,” said CEF President and CEA Vice President Jeff Leake. “It builds excitement and gives children the impetus to read, and for educators, it’s a reminder that CEF is here to help them help their students. With the CEF bus tour, we ensure that students in rural communities can choose books of their own to take home. There’s no more important gift than literacy.”

Fourth-grade teacher Sara Barile and her students cozy up to thousands of books on the Read Across America Reading Bus.

Established by the National Education Association, Read Across America is an annual event celebrated on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss. The event has been so well received that it has expanded from a one-day celebration into a weeklong literacy event with more than 45 million students, parents, and teachers participating in reading parties, community read-ins, activities, character parades, book fairs, and more.

Oh, the Places…

Students make their own bookmarks aboard the reading bus.

Fourth-grade teacher Sara Barile, whose students were first on the bus this morning, said, “Just seeing the looks on their faces, the way they were waiting and so excited to see the bus pull in this morning was so great. We’ve really been working hard on reading and showing students how you can get to so many places by reading, and it’s something you can do anywhere. This bus visit gives them that extra push to celebrate reading with everyone else.” Barile said her students have been exploring different genres in the classroom, and though most of the selections have been works of fiction, such as Judy Blume books or the I Survived series, many of her students are enjoying nonfiction.

Pre-K teacher Keri O’Neill, vice president of the Putnam Education Association, reads Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

“We’re here celebrating reading, which is so important at every age, but especially for children,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams, who joined Putnam Elementary School’s fourth-graders as they gathered around the bus and chose their gift books donated by CEF. “CEF supports the needs of students all throughout the state of Connecticut, and one of the ways is by getting them excited about reading, which is the foundation for all their learning.”

Guest readers, who read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go, included teachers and administrators, among them pre-K teacher Keri O’Neill, who is vice president of the Putnam Education Association.

CEF President Jeff Leake celebrates Read Across America Day with students in Putnam—the first stop on a weeklong reading bus tour.

“A love for reading is the best thing I could ever teach a student,” O’Neill said, explaining that pre-reading activities in her pre-K classroom include rhyming activities, learning letter sounds, and getting to know what a book is and how to hold one. “You learn to read, then you read to learn, so this sets that foundation.”

A hit with Putnam Elementary students, the reading bus was something many passengers said they’d like to ride to school every day.

“If I had to rate this from 1 to 10,” said fourth-grader Caleb Caouette, “I’d rate it 900,000.”

See more photos from today’s event on CEA’s flickr page.

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