AMES–All across America on Monday, March 2, people young and old donned tall red-and-white striped hats, spiky blue wigs, or shirts that put stars on their bellies. They read aloud books written in rhymes, about fantastical creatures whose outlandish antics couched messages dealing with touchy social issues. Monday was the birthday of iconic children’s author and illustrator Dr. Seuss—a date appropriated by the National Education Association for National Read Across America Day.  The annual event is part of Read Across America, an initiative on reading that was created to “help create a nation of readers,” NEA’s website says .

Kindergarten students at Mitchell Elementary School didn’t need any hoopla to get excited about reading, however, teacher Charlyn Mason said. “They’re so excited that they’re learning to read and the words on the page are beginning to come alive,” she said. “It’s very empowering when for children to be able to read on their own.”

To celebrate their skill, and perhaps make a record for posterity on such an auspicious day, students in both Mitchell’s kindergarten classes took turns reading to Susan Franzen, a reporter for KHOI Community Radio who plans to edit the recording and air it on March 8.

“It was a revelation to me that children are learning to read in kindergarten,” Franzen said. “Of course they’re reading at various skill levels—but they’re all reading.”

Franzen said she recently learned about statistics that tie reading proficiency at grade three with reduced risk for dropping out of high school.

“I’m so encouraged that these students are on track—I don’t think they’ll have any trouble being good readers by grade three.”