Student Newsroom

C-U celebrates Read Across America day


Angi Franklin, assistant superintendent of human resources at Urbana School District, reads a story to a group of children March 4 at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana. Franklin was a celebrity reader at the 23rd annual Read Across America event. Piper Pascarella

URBANA – The halls of Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana were filled with sounds of children laughing and turning pages on March 4 as thousands of parents and their children celebrated the importance of reading in honor of Read Across America Day. 

The event was put on by the Urbana Park District in partnership with local businesses and organizations. It featured vendors, story-tellers and literacy-related hands-on activities for young children, according to the C-U Read Across America Facebook.

Matt Lewis, the Urbana Park District’s Community Program Organizer, said the event is a great way for youth to get involved with community organizations and celebrate reading.

“They realize that there is a lot more that can be known about it, and that gets them a lot more interested,” Lewis said.“They realize that not everything you do that is ‘literacy based’ always has to be boring.”

This year's event was the first year since 2020 to have been held fully indoors with activities and readings available to the guests, Lewis said. 

After COVID-19 hit, he said, the event operated like a drive-thru, where families drove up and chose a book to take home with them.

The event, themed “Reading is a Superpower,” provided the first 1,000 guests with a sticker card and a free cloth bag with artwork by Tau’hnisjha, an eighth-grade student in Urbana, according to the C-U RAA Facebook.

The event occupied the north, east and west wings of the Lincoln Square mall with more than 40 booths. The booths offered stickers for each guest, and children were eligible to choose a free book after filling up their sticker card.

“We like it that all of these community organizations can come together in one place,” Lewis said. “A lot of these places have a lot to share, a lot of great activities and a lot of great things to give out to the youth.

“I think the biggest takeaway is offering a 100% free event in town.”

Numerous “celebrity readers” were featured throughout the event hosting storytimes. The celebrities included local members of the Champaign-Urbana community, such as superintendents, principals, firefighters, police officers and others. 

Storytimes were available in multiple languages, such as Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Portuguese.

Tamara Reid, a member of Altrusa International, a non-profit in C-U that co-coordinated the event, said she thinks the event was a great way to share the love of reading 

“Reading is a lifelong love,” Reid said. “I think it’s fun to give back to others, especially as children first start learning to read.

“It’s wonderful actually…This is my second year working the full-blown event, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Judy Elmore, mother to 6-year-old Stanley Elmore, attended the event because her son loves to read.

“It’s been a great experience,” Elmore said. “I love watching all the people reading to the kids and how engaged they get.”

National Read Across America Day, also known as Dr. Seuss Day, was created by the National Education Association in 1998 to “call attention to the efforts of educators, parents, and others who motivate and teach children to read,” according to an NEA press release.

Read Across America Day is officially recognized on March 2, the birthday of children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel, widely known as Dr. Seuss, according to National Today.