Every year, on the first Sunday of March, Oberlin’s chapter of America Reads throws a “Dr. Seuss Day” celebration in the Oberlin Public Library. Over 200 children from Oberlin and the surrounding area come to the library to enjoy free music, performances, activities, and food, in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. This is my fourth year as an America Reads tutor and my first year as a site leader in the program, so organizing Dr. Seuss Day for Winter Term seemed like the perfect opportunity to take my commitment to the Oberlin community to the next level.
I am one of six people on the varsity softball team who tutors in the Oberlin public schools — my first order of business was to recruit the entire team. I convinced the team that they had to attend, set up a booth at the event, and help with preparation. And I immediately invited the Black River Belles, the team’s favorite student bluegrass trio, to perform.
Needless to say, the softball booth was one of the most popular activities. We set up a beanbag toss right next to the popcorn machine, and gave away free tattoos, offering the kids some water and a wash cloth to apply the tattoo right then and there. While we hung out with children in the activity room, a separate group of children watched performances on the “stage” that Kate and I set up in the main library. The Obertones, Round Midnight, OSteel, And What!?, the Black River Belles and OCircus all performed, between Dr. Seuss readings by prominent community members.
The activities and music were a lot of fun, but by far the most entertaining part of the afternoon was when Katie, Megan and I dressed up in the costumes we had rented for the event. To my complete surprise, Megan volunteered to dress as the Cat in the Hat and she roamed the library, delighting children with her Seussian wit. Because the usual costume shop that rents out Elmo and Blue’s Clues costumes was temporarily out of business, Katie and I ended up taking turns navigating the library in a giant, old, particularly pungent St. Bernard costume. It was hard to be a loveable mascot in the tattered suit, and we almost knocked down toddlers that strolled into our blind spots, but we managed to attract some fans. At least one little boy was teary-eyed when it was time for the puppy to leave.
My team spent an incredible amount of time, effort, and money on the event. Julia ran all around town looking for temporary tattoos that weren’t only of princesses or butterflies. (We didn’t want to promote traditional gender roles.) Kristine, Kristen, and Kate lovingly applied the images to countless hands, arms, and faces. When the last kids had left, most of the America Reads volunteers went home, but of course the trusty softball team stayed behind to pick up the mess, load up the cars, and transport everything back to the Bonner Center.