Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! In honor of Read Across American Day on March 2, Tuskegee Airmen Global (TAG) Academy reimagined the legacy of the man behind those words in a literary celebration of diversity and inclusion.
“Dr. Seuss once had a checkered past,” TAG Academy Media Specialist Quandra Adams explained to children via Zoom. “In his previous career, he was a cartoonist. And he would draw pictures that do not highlight the diversity of the world and would often mock and humiliate people of color thru exaggerated features. Today, we want to look at his work after his checked past.”
For decades, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel had been a staple of National Education Association’s annual Read Across America reading motivation and awareness program, as March 2 coincides with his birthday. However, in recent years, Read Across America has focused less on the late children’s book author and more on diversity and inclusion.
“Today, we are focusing on social justice,” she said. “Reading helps us to learn the world around us, and it also helps us to empathize with others.”
And that they did.
Atlanta Falcons Fullback Keith Smith did a read-a-loud of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. Illustrated by Rafael López, the picture book uses Sotomayor’s own experience with childhood diabetes to examine the abilities of kids with other unique differences, including ADHD and Tourette syndrome. The premise: when we meet someone who is different and we want to learn more about them, just ask.
“There are so many positives that come with reading,” Smith told students via Zoom. “I wouldn’t have gotten to the level of football without being able to read. Without the skills to be able to read and pick up on things that come from reading, I wouldn’t be here. … Whatever you want to be in your life, there’s a book out there that will give you firsthand experiences from people in those professions–almost like a cheat code. They lay it out for you to pick their brains in a book. I read every single day. I read my Bible every morning to set the tone for the day.”
After the read-a-loud, students had the opportunity to ask Smith questions about diversity and inclusion. Later, Freddie Falcon and Falcon cheerleaders surprised third graders (who opted for in-person learning) on the campus of TAG Academy. Zoom viewers were surprised too! They waved, cheered and took screenshot selfies.
Principal Yolanda Weems closed out the program with marching orders to TAG Academy: “Scholars, as change agents, how are we going to continue to change the world? How am I going to embrace someone that is different than me, let them know that they are loved as a sister, as a brother, as a friend?”