Guest readers invaded Lawrence elementary schools Friday to share Dr. Seuss' wacky rhymes and whimsical illustrations.
Enthusiasm for the late Theodor Geisel's characters Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, Yertle the Turtle, Grinch during Lawrence celebrations of Read Across America 2002 showed Geisel's writing has not lost its power to charm young readers.
"Books, books. I love books," said Caroline King, a second-grader at Quail Run School.
The annual reading event coincided with Geisel's birthday and is thought to be the biggest one-day literacy celebration in the nation.
At Quail Run, 15 students from Free State High School read some of the good doctor's classics to dozens of students in kindergarten, first grade and second grade.
Free State senior Shelly Axcell, who attended Quail Run as a child, excitedly pored over "Green Eggs and Ham." The eyes of youngsters gathered around her lit up.
"It was one of my favorite books when I was little still is," Axcell said.
Second-grader Mary Soderberg had special fondness for the 1960 book about Sam-I-Am's persistent effort to convince a nameless skeptic that green food is a savory delicacy.
"It was my first long book that I read," said Soderberg, 8.
Friday was the fifth annual Read Across America event, which is coordinated by the National Education Assn. It was expected to involve 35 million people.
The event is tied to Geisel's March 2 birthday. But because that date falls on a Saturday this year, schools from coast to coast had reading extravaganzas Friday.
Linda Anguiano, in her ninth year as a teacher at Quail Run, said the visiting high school students served as valuable role models for the younger children.
Older readers help reinforce the idea that reading ought to be a part of everyone's life regardless of age, she said.
"It should happen every day," Anguiano said. "To see a big kid read ... and still get a kick out of Dr. Seuss is great."
King, the Quail Run second-grader, said she likes Seuss books because so many goofy characters do such bizarre things.
Two of her favorites "Green Eggs and Ham" and "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" are among the Top 20 most beloved books, according to a survey of children by Read Across America.
In this list of the 100 most pleasurable books, "Green Eggs and Ham" finished third, while "One Fish Two Fish" came in 16th.
"I like the fish," King said. "They're funny."
Other Seuss books in that Top 100: "The Cat in the Hat," fourth; "The Foot Book," 38th; "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," 39th; and "Hop on Pop," 68th.
Jack O'Bryon, part of the Free State contingent, said one his favorite Seuss books was absent from the list of 100 "Go Dog Go."
"The ones I remember well from being a kid were 'Green Eggs and Ham' and 'Go Dog Go,'" he said. Friday, however, he was happy to tantalize youngsters with "If I Ran the Zoo" and "Mr. Brown Can Moo."
"I remember when high school kids came to Quail Run to read to us," O'Bryon said. "It's nice to return the favor."