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Reading Across Oberlin


Text and photos by Richard Baznik


“A person’s a person, no matter how small,” wrote the late Theodore Geisel, better known to millions of fans as Dr. Seuss.


He might as easily have written, “A person’s a person, no matter how old.”


For the past 14 years, teachers, librarians, students, and readers and writers of all ages have celebrated “Read Across America Day” on March 2, the date of Geisel’s birthday in 1904.


As Sharon Blecher’s second-grade class at Oberlin’s Eastwood Primary School made plans to celebrate this year’s event, they focused on both extremes of the age spectrum. On Wednesday, March 2, the class traveled by school bus to Kendal at Oberlin to share their favorite books with children in Kendal’s day care program as well as with senior residents. The results were predictably spectacular.


The class divided into groups to visit with toddlers and pre–K audiences in the day care center and residents in Kendal’s Stephens Care Center. Resident Marie Evans, who also volunteers in the day care center, led a group of Eastwood students through Kendal’s main hall to the rooms where children from ages two to five were impatiently awaiting their arrival. They quickly paired off with the Eastwood students and, in small groups sprawled on the carpet or at tables, the reading was under way.


The other group of Eastwood students was escorted to the Stephens Care Center by Kendal resident Anne Elder, who also provided them with a little information about the setting. Then Michele Tarsitano–Amato, Kendal’s director of creative arts therapy, offered specific advice on how to read to residents who might have hearing problems or other issues. “Speak loudly, clearly, and slowly,” she told them, “but don’t shout.”


About an hour after they arrived, the Eastwood students said farewell to Kendal and climbed on their bus to travel back to the school. The children and the residents and Kendal might have quoted another famous Dr. Seuss rhyme as they watched the yellow bus amble down the drive: “My goodness how the time has ‘flewn.’ How did it get so late so soon?”


Kendal resident Marie Evans and three Eastwood second-graders, (from left) Pablo Pineda, Soria Rodriguez, and Emma Miller, lead their fellow students to their reading assignments at Kendal for 2011 Read Across America Day.

Eastwood second–grader Tessa Newson reads to Mary Jane Koster, a resident in the Stephens Care Center at Kendal at Oberlin.

Tucked comfortably into a corner, Eastwood second-grader Christopher Hunt (right) reads to Caleb Hougland in Kendal’s day care center.

Kendal day care staff member Jeni Hoover (right) holds Savannah Zimmerman and Mattie Stalzkowski points to the book as Eastwood student Zeke Locklear reads to the group, while his classmate Luis Allende (left) listens.