Hawkins reads to students for ‘Read Across America Day’
Because of restrictions on visitors, guest readers did not go into classrooms at Southside Elementary School to celebrate “Read Across America Day” on Tuesday, March 2. Instead, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins read “Green Eggs and Ham” to students at all four elementary schools in Woodford County on Dr. Seuss’s birthday. A video recording of Hawkins reading to kindergartners in Brooke Cottingham’s class Feb. 25 was sent to teachers at every elementary school in the district, so they could play the recording for their students on March 2, according to Elaine Bailey, communications officer for Woodford County Public Schools. “Boys and girls,” Hawkins told Cottingham’s kindergartners, “you all get to be a part of a special event.” Because “Read Across America Day” couldn’t be celebrated like previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “this year we’re going to record me reading a book to you guys. And then we’re going to play it all over the district. So your class gets to be a part of something that’s going to be shared with ... all the elementary schools in Woodford County.” Hawkins said “Green Eggs and Ham” is his favorite Dr. Seuss book because of all its rhyming words – and he encouraged the kindergartners to listen for words that rhyme as he read. “And the other thing that I like about this book,” he said, “is that it teaches us a great lesson ... Sometimes, if we’d just be willing to try something new, we’ll find out that we really like it.” After he finished reading “Green Eggs and Ham,” Hawkins asked students to tell him two of the rhyming words they heard in the story. Again and again, the students answered his prompts of house with mouse, box with fox, goat with boat, and finally, train with rain. Moments after she and her classmates thanked Hawkins for reading to them, one kindergartner told him, “And you’re the one who gave me and my friends a snow day,” referencing a recent Friday when classes were cancelled due to inclement weather. Hawkins said he has always enjoyed celebrating a love of reading with students. “It’s just a special opportunity to be able to do something like that,” he continued. Hawkins said he didn’t think about this being the last year he’ll read a story for Read Across America as superintendent (he’s retiring after the school year) until Cottingham, with tears in her eyes, told him before he left her classroom. “I don’t go around (during a school day) thinking, well, this is the last time I’m going to do this. So it didn’t really hit me until she said something,” said Hawkins. Retired Southside Elementary teacher Peggy Carter Seal, who organizes the Read Across America Day event at the school every year, said giving Hawkins the opportunity to read his favorite Dr. Seuss book was appropriate since this was his last year as superintendent. Still, Seal acknowledged, “I was really disappointed,” guest readers could not go into classrooms, “because this was the 24th year” of Read Across America Day, and Southside has celebrated Dr. Suess’s birthday every year. She is a member of the Kentucky Education Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, which promotes literacy during Read Across America every March.