Theodor Geisel, better known to the public as Dr. Seuss, turned 108 on Friday, and students across the nation celebrated his birthday by reading some of his most beloved books.
At the , students from first grade up to fifth gathered in the school auditorium for a morning assembly with a small crowd of avid, older readers -- many of whom were city officials or educators -- to talk about why reading is such a great thing.
U.S. Congressman John Tierney, who also donated some children's and young adult books to the school from the Library of Congress, told his young audience that he reads every day and is always learning something new because of it. Former Mayor Michael Bonfanti, offered a different perspective, now that he is no longer in the corner office.
"One of the best advantages from not being Mayor [anymore] is that I can finally read for pleasure," Bonfanti said, adding that as a young child, he struggled learning to read, but thanks to his teacher at the South School, he was able to overcome that hurdle.
Many of the adults who later read to the students in their respective classrooms, described how reading is very important to their jobs, in addition to being an enjoyable and enriching pasttime.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, a Burke School grad who developed his love of reading as a young pupil there, said reading is the "key to success in life."
Or to paraphrase in the words of the inimitable wordsmith himself: "Oh, the places you'll go!"
Peabody High senior Cam Forgitano, who helps coach the fifth grade boys basketball team, also contributed his advice on the power of reading. "Seriously, reading is very important," he said -- from being able to do homework, study in college or even read the subtitles while watching TV.
School Committee member Brandi Carpenter, a Burke parent, said richly imaginative series, such as Harry Potter, allow readers to enter a "completely different world," which they can only get to by picking up one of the books. Of course, there are the film adaptations now, but you could argue it's an entirely different experience.
The students audibly disagreed with Carpenter, however, when she tried to convince them reading is "a way better world than Xbox or PlayStation."
Mayor Ted Bettencourt, another school parent -- his wife also graduated from the Burke, told the youngsters that even if they wanted to become the next Lady Gaga or Tom Brady, they still needed to be adept at reading the written word.
"To accomplish your dreams and goals in life, you need to read," he said.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Herb Levine said it's a routine that exercises the brain. He added that even if students correspond via email to friends and relatives far away, they still need to read in order to send and understand messages.
The Read Across America program was started in 1997 by the National Education Association as a way to celebrate reading and motivate students to read outside the classroom as well while honoring everyone's favorite children's author.