Celebrate literacy with the Cat in the Hat

Reading is a year-round priority for New Jersey educators and their students, but early March is, well, another story entirely. Excitement is in the air as schools from Sussex to Cape May come together each year to celebrate Read Across America Day.

However, did you know that you can take that celebration up a notch and invite the Cat in the Hat to visit your school? That’s right: For the 19th consecutive year NJEA continues to spotlight reading and family literacy through its annual Read Across America-NJ program, which includes the opportunity for NJEA members and their schools to win a visit from the Cat in the Hat.

Read Across America is an annual celebration of reading on or around March 2, which, in 2019, the 115th anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to generations of young readers as Dr. Seuss. The Read Across America project was originated by NEA in 1999.

NJEA builds excitement for this annual event by sending four costumed “Cats” to visit nearly 300 schools across New Jersey in February and early March. The “Cats” —retired educators who dress up in seven-foot-tall professional Cat in the Hat costumes—bring the literacy message to thousands of students.

As an NJEA member, you can request a chance for a visit online. It’s simple: If you would like to invite the Cat to visit your school, fill out the online request form. Completing the form does not guarantee a visit, but it is the only way to be considered for one. The first 50 members to sign up will receive a red-and-white striped stovepipe hat, courtesy of NJEA.

Visits will begin in February and continue through mid-March. Depending on when the Cat is available, the visit may be the kick-off or the finale of your ongoing Read Across America celebration. NJEA cannot accommodate requests for specific dates, but will advise you in early January of the Cat’s availability to visit your school.

If you are selected, please keep in mind that while these “Cats” are definitely a highlight, they should be just a piece of the bigger celebration you have planned. Each year in schools, libraries, and other venues across New Jersey, students and eager adults will participate in various events organized by local school employees, demonstrating their commitment to childhood literacy. Not sure what to do? Visit nea.org/grants/plan-a-reading-event.htm to learn about ways you can create a memorable event for your students, your school, and your community.

To learn more about NJEA’s Read Across America celebration or to sign up for a chance to have the Cat at your school, visit njea.org/raa. The deadline for inviting the Cat is Friday, Nov. 9.

Tips for a successful Cat visit

If you are selected to receive a Cat visit, you will be considered the visit coordinator responsible for overseeing the event. Follow these simple suggestions to make the most of your day.

• Loop in your principal and school secretary on the day and time the visit will occur to avoid any confusion upon arrival.

• Invite your colleagues to brainstorm ways to ensure multiple classes, grade levels and school employees can join in on the fun.

• Plan an RAA event where the Cat can appear. Use the free, downloadable materials found on NEA’s website to help organize a brief assembly where the Cat can join the fun.

• Make arrangements for a special area for the Cat to get set up and ready to perform that day, as well as provide parking suggestions for the Cat to follow.

• Be sure to check your school and personal email often before the visit to get more tips, insight, and last-minute advice from the Cats themselves.

• Enjoy the day!

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