By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

Lumberport Elementary School Principal Vickie Luchuck poses with Ronald McDonald during his visit to the school in celebration of Read Across America Week.

‘Read Across America’, a year-round program that focuses on motivating children and teens to read, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.

It is celebrated in March, and ‘Read Across America’ Day just happens to fall on the birthday of Dr. Seuss, one of the most cherished children’s authors whose books have sold over 600 million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages.  In honor of Dr. Seuss, many schools will celebrate his birthday with students and faculty wearing the signature read and white striped hat that pays homage to his classic book The Cat in the Hat.

According to Lisa West, Marketing Representative for JW Ebert McDonald’s locations, McDonald’s also has a strong desire to encourage children to read.  “Almost every school in Harrison County participates in our McDonald’s Reading Program that has been in existence for about 18 years now.  We worked closely with the Board of Education to set this program up,” Lisa explained.  “It is an after-school activity.  The teachers decide how many books or pages their students must read per month.  I often visit the schools and do a presentation on how McDonald’s began, and we will give coupons as a reward to students who have met their reading requirements.  And when possible, Ronald McDonald joins us for school visits.”

Lumberport Elementary School is among the schools that participate in the McDonald’s Reading Program, and to help them celebrate Dr. Seuss Day this month, Ronald McDonald visited the school and spent time with Pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st grade students there.  Ronald read Come Over to My House (by Dr. Seuss) to the students, did magic tricks with them, and gave them Dr. Seuss bookmarks to color.

“McDonald’s is a Partner In Education with our school, and we always welcome their visits,” commented Principal Vickie Luchuck.  “Our young students had a wonderful visit with Ronald McDonald!  It was a great opportunity for our students, and anything we can do to inspire them read is well worth it.  The more they read, the better readers they will become.  Part of our goal is to teach the children that reading can be fun as well as a learning tool.”

Ronald also went into the 4th grade classrooms where students of Mrs. Haught and Mrs. Howell had collected pop tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald House.  Not only is a pop tab collection beneficial as a recycling program, but it is also a great way for people of all ages to get involved in supporting Ronald McDonald House and its mission, which is to offer a place where families can be together during a most challenging situation when a child is being treated for a serious illness.

“Our students are aware of what the Ronald McDonald House does for families and kids who are seriously ill.  They enjoy seeing their collection grow and knowing that they are helping to support what goes on there.  This is part of teaching our students to be service-minded,” Ms. Luchuck concluded.