Amongst the regular hustle and bustle of the Warwick Mall this Saturday, children of all ages were huddled together listening to guest speakers read some of their favorite books.
The National Education Association Rhode Island affiliate stopped in Warwick to hold their 20th annual Read Across America event — a reading motivation and awareness program in honor of children’s author Dr. Seuss’ birthday. In the middle of the mall, there was a stage and a giant comfy chair set up where parents and children of all ages gathered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
NEARI’s Raymond J. Pouliot, sporting a “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” tie, hosted the event and introduced speakers. Pouliot explained that reading is so important for kids because it is essentially the basis of education.
Throughout the day, various prominent Rhode Island guest readers, including Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Representatives Jay Edwards and Julie Casimiro and Congressman David Cicilline. There were booths set up from the NEARI, NEARI Education Support Professionals, NEARI Retired, School Libraries of Rhode Island, Friends of the Warwick Library and College Bound | Saver Program. Children were encouraged to make their own “cat hat” craft and sign a birthday card for Dr. Suess, free books were given away and prizes were awarded to raffle winners.
Cranston State Representative Robert Lancia, a veteran reader at the Read Across America event, took to the stage and excitedly recited “Timothy and the Strong Pajamas.” The book, written by Viviane Schwarz, offers the important message to always help others.
“I think that trying to get kids to be able to enjoy and have a love of reading is so important,” Lancia said. “Let’s face it, growing up you have to be able to read- it’s part of what we have to do, it’s part of helping us get a job, filling out forms, all kinds of things.”
Lancia said when he was in school he was a voracious reader. He went to the school library and read dozens of biographies on people in order to learn about their endeavors. Each year, he participates in this event with his wife because he hopes to make it exciting and enjoyable so kids will have a love for reading, just like he did.
“With everything on T.V. and movies [nowadays,] it’s different than when I was growing up,” Lancia said. There’s got to be a new level of excitement. So we try to bring something new to the table every year we come - it might be a T-shirt, a crazy hat or activity books.”
Governor Gina Raimondo was the last guest reader, and the kids around her were enthralled with the story. When she finished, she prompted the children with some questions and they jumped excitedly, ready to answer.
Executive Director of NEARI, Bob Walsh, said that there are so many wonderful volunteers throughout NEARI membership and throughout the state leadership that came to read to everyone.
“Reading is phenomenally important for our kids and it’s great that so many people came to join us today to emphasize that,” Walsh said.
For more information regarding future NEARI events, visit neari.org.