Seuss’ Birthday Celebrated at Local School

Junior Brandon Izzo reads to a class at Belmont Elementary as a part of “Read Like a Warrior Day” and “Read Across America Day.” Photo by Katie Mercogliano.
Belmont Elementary in Olney celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday Wednesday, February 29 and Friday, March 2. Theodor Geisel, who wrote under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss since his college years at Dartmouth in 1925, would have been 108 years old March 2.

On February 29, members of Sherwood’s varsity football team and state champion girls’ volleyball team visited Belmont for “Read Like a Warrior Day” and “Read Across America Day.”

“For the football team and the volleyball team, the kids were entranced,” said Belmont principal Dr. Peter Bray. “I could go into a room and see what they were doing and see the players reading to them. They didn’t even notice me. Normally the kids will give me a wave or a nod or something when I walk into classrooms, but they were so focused on those readers. It was so exciting for them to have someone like that come in and read to them. It was wonderful.”

Football head coach Mike Bonavia sponsored the trip that lasted about two hours. Belmont is one of the few schools in the Olney-cluster that feeds exclusively to Sherwood. Many of Bonavia’s players, in fact, attended Belmont when they were young. Sherwood seniors who attended Belmont were actually Bray’s first class as principal.

“I really enjoyed being a role model to the kids because I know first had how special it was to them,” said senior receiver Eric Williams, who attended Belmont during his elementary years. “I myself idolized Sherwood football players at that age.”

Williams and junior Ryan Warren read “Horton Hears a Who” to Shannon Dickey’s third grade class because the movie of “Horton Hears a Who” was recently released “and I knew the kids would be able to relate,” Williams said.

On March 2, distinguished MCPS guests and members of the Board of Education (BOE) visited Belmont to participate in the festivities on Seuss’s birthday.

Among the dignitaries were English Language Arts supervisor Jim Fliakas who read portions of “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White to Dickey’s class and BOE member Michael Durso who read “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss to Bonnie Smoral’s fourth grade class.

Making a celebrity appearance at the school was vocalist and reality TV show contestant Erin Willett. Willett visited with her mother Mary and read to both first grade classes while taking time after completing “Horton Hatches the Egg” to promote NBC’s “The Voice” of which is a contestant on country-star Blake Shelton’s team.

“It has good message,” Willett said of the book. “And I think it also goes with my story of persistence and following what you want to do and when you say you’re going to do something you do it and you do it 100 percent. It’s a good message for children.”

Bray says elementary students are often reluctant to pick up a book. Boys especially have a hard time recognizing the importance of early literacy, he says, but reading classics like Dr. Seuss and bringing in role models as guest readers always help.

“Kids don’t normally see the value in reading. They don’t see where they’re going to go with it. But when they get to see a role model, a high school kid, somebody they look up to, they don’t even have to know them, they just have to know that they play football, because a lot of our kids will go to the games. It means a lot to them,” Bray said. “They talked about it all day long.”


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