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Read Across America event to spotlight Seussical smiles
Literacy, oral health focus of annual event on March 3

Feb. 20, 2014—What does brushing your teeth have to do with being a good reader? As it turns out, the two can be connected. Students in the United States miss 51 million hours of school each year because of oral health problems, the National Education Association reports. The instruction time missed, especially in the early grades in which the development of reading skills is an important focus, can hurt students’ ability to read.

The connection between good brushing habits and good reading habits make for a natural pairing of Read Across America and its sponsor Renaissance Dental. The two have teamed up to create the theme “Sink Your Teeth into Reading All Year Long” for this year’s Read Across America event, set for Monday, March 3.

Read Across America, an initiative of The National Education Association (NEA), is an annual event that encourages children and adults across the nation to join in a celebration of reading on or around the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. Its purpose is to motivate students to read and bring awareness to the importance of literacy in our daily lives.

“Everyone from Horton to the Grinch can benefit from developing good oral health and reading habits,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “As Dr. Seuss famously said, ‘Teeth are always in style.’”

Reading, like brushing your teeth, should be an everyday activity. Both are important aspects of growing up to have a healthy body and mind.

On the oral health side of the equation, the American Dental Association says parents should help their children brush their teeth two minutes each time, twice a day for healthier teeth, good breath, fewer cavities and to avoid painful dental problems.

Experts say to set the timer for reading, too. The Children’s Reading Foundation says that just 20 minutes a day reading aloud with young children strengthens relationships, encourages listening and language skills, promotes attention and curiosity and establishes a strong reading foundation.

Doing the math, a student who reads 20 minutes per day likely will read 1.8 million words by the end of the sixth-grade, compared with a student who reads one minute per day, who will read only 8,000 words.

An easy-to-remember math equation ties together reading and brushing for a healthy body and mind: 2x2+20 (brushing twice a day for two minutes and reading for 20 minutes a day). That’s the math problem Read Across America has assigned children and their parents for homework to as a way of building good oral health and literacy habits.

About the event

Now in its 16th year, Read Across America has developed a personality all its own, growing into quite the Seussical spectacle. With guidance from the National Education Association, which gets support from some 40 nonprofits and associations, school districts across the country are pulling out the red and white striped stovepipe hats and putting together reading events for students during the school day and for families that evening.

In years past, celebrities like Uma Thurman and Zac Efron lend have lent their names and time to the event, reading to children in New York City. In communities all over the country, mayors and local radio personalities become celebrities, too, reading to children in their local elementary schools.

Everyone can participate by taking the Read Across America Pledge online at, where participants anywhere can share their plans for the day and track what others are doing, too.

How Read Across America got started

The NEA has long-believed that motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement, pointing to research that shows children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.

The idea for the annual Read Across America event came nearly two decades ago during a meeting of a reading task force at NEA whose members wanted to drum up the same excitement for reading that is often seen at pep rallies and sporting events. Tying it in with the birthday of well-known children’s author Dr. Seuss, NEA’s Read Across America was born March 2, 1998, seeking to be the largest celebration of reading the country had ever seen.

Though it was originally created as a one-day event to celebrate the joy of reading, Read Across America has grown into a nationwide initiative that promotes reading every day. According to NEA, more than 45 million people young and old participate annually in the program, now in its 16th year.

How to get involved

There are lots of ways to connect to Read Across America Day before it arrives March 3. A new tablet and mobile app connects users to the literacy calendar and program resources, and videos can be viewed on the Read Across America Channel on

For ideas on how to get started planning an event, go to

Ideas for activities also are being posted on the organization’s Facebook page at and on Pinterest at


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