COMBS — Every year, schools take part in Read Across America, during the first week of March. The event coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2. There are several fun traditions associated with Read Across America. One such tradition involves students taking the Reader’s Oath, which is a poetic oath written by Debra Angstead of the National Education Association for teachers to use as part of their Read Across America activities. This year, the students of A.B. Combs Elementary invited a special guest to help make their Reader’s Oath official.
Perry County Circuit Judge Alison Wells visited the fourth and fifth graders of A.B. Combs to participate in the ceremony. Students gathered in the school’s library, raised their right hands and repeated the lines of the oath as Judge Wells, adorned in her judge’s robe, read them aloud.
“It was a lot of fun,” Judge Wells said, after the ceremony, “These are great kids.”
For the students at A.B. Combs, taking the Reader’s Oath is more than merely role play and Judge Wells serves more than simply a symbolic purpose in the ceremony. Educators and civic leaders want students to understand that education is about more than training for a future career. Education is empowerment, not only for individuals, but also for the communities they call home.
After taking the Reader’s Oath, the fifth graders of A.B. Combs have a job to do. They will be visiting other classrooms in the school and reading to the students. This entire Read Across America event is designed to bring the community together with a specific goal; the goal of inspiring children to embrace the power of reading. Perry County Schools Superintendent Jonathan Jett attended the Reader’s Oath ceremony at A.B. Combs to show appreciation for the school’s hard work and the involvement of Judge Wells.
“I think it is awesome that an elected official came out here today to show support for these children,” Jett said, “That really shows devotion to our community.”
This year, Read Across America is taking place Feb. 29 through March 4 nationwide. Teachers and faculty place a lot of work into making the experience enjoyable for the students. At A.B. Combs, the teachers decorate their classroom doors with themes that represent Dr. Seuss books. The homeroom with the best door wins a pizza or ice cream party. The kids are encouraged to wear fashions that are befitting of Dr. Seuss’s classic characters, such as a crazy hat for Cat in the Hat Day, crazy socks for Fox in Sox Day and all green for Green Eggs and Ham Day.
Marcia Ward is a fourth and fifth grade teacher at A.B. Combs Elementary. She was a nominee for teacher of the year statewide, which is no easy honor to obtain for a teacher in any school district.
“This year, more students are showing interest in reading,” said Ward, “If I teach kids anything, it is to love reading because if you know how to read, you never have to wait on anybody else to teach you something.”
Marcia Ward has plenty of encouragement from her principal. Jamie Fugate is the principal of A.B. Combs. Fugate and his faculty place great emphasis on creating an atmosphere that makes the experience of learning engaging for the students.
“I appreciate Mrs. Ward,” Fugate said, “I appreciate Mr. Jett for supporting these kids. Mr. Jett really appreciates education and is doing great work to strengthen the foundation students need for academic development. These kids are what it’s all about. They’re good kids. We’re proud of them.”
Ward and Fugate have plenty of backup in their mission. A.B. Combs is part of Save the Children’s Literacy Program. The goal of this program is to improve children’s ability to read for academic, personal and career purposes. To reach this goal, the program motivates children to read. The program also assists struggling readers, encourages positive reading behaviors and integrates families into learning processes. Janice Whitaker is the program coordinator for Save the Children’s Literacy Program at A.B. Combs.
“We do in school reading with the students,” said Whitaker, “and Save the Children invests a lot of money into buying books. There has been over 65 thousand dollars invested into buying books for this school.”
So what is happening this week at A.B. Combs? It is Read Across America week. Teachers have spent lots of hours planning. One of the world’s most renowned organizations, Save the Children, has helped make the effort stronger. A community leader came to the school to encourage the kids. The principal and the superintendent were present to show appreciation for all the hard work everyone has placed into the project. Parents have been given an opportunity to join the fun by coordinating fashions for their children to fit each day’s theme, which will hopefully compel families to discuss the works of Dr. Seuss throughout the week, an author whose timeless tales have now touched several different generations. And most importantly, the students are reading.
It is not only A.B. Combs. Schools throughout our region have organized Read Across America events that are impressive and inspiring. Dr. Seuss probably never imagined that his stories, which are known for being short, would help foster hopes, which are incredibly high.
Sam “I am” Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.