Waltonwood Royal Oak resident Julia Weeks, left, and marketing manager Andrea Batten, right, participate in Read Across America Day March 2. Weeks donned elephant ears and filmed herself reading Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who!” for Shrine Catholic Grade School students.

Waltonwood Royal Oak resident Julia Weeks, left, and marketing manager Andrea Batten, right, participate in Read Across America Day March 2. Weeks donned elephant ears and filmed herself reading Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears A Who!” for Shrine Catholic Grade School students.

Photo provided by Sarah Jackson


Seniors virtually celebrate Read Across America Day with Shrine students

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 11, 2021

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ROYAL OAK — March 2 was Read Across America Day, and to celebrate, seniors from Waltonwood Royal Oak senior living community videotaped themselves reading their favorite Dr. Seuss books for students from Shrine Catholic Grade School.

Staff from the senior living community asked three residents to pick their favorite Dr. Seuss books, as March 2 marked the author’s 117th birthday. They also purchased costumes, decorations and set up themes for each resident to provide a colorful backdrop.

The community recorded the seniors reading the books and sent the video messages, as well as goodie bags that contained extra copies of the books and bookmarks, to Shrine teachers to share with their classes.

“Because we had over 500 students at Shrine elementary participate, we bought four copies of each of the three books,” said Lea Caruso, Waltonwood Royal Oak’s life enrichment manager. “The teachers held the book up when the resident read and engaged students.”

Julia Weeks, who has resided at Waltonwood Royal Oak for three and a half years, said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She chose Dr. Seuss’ book “Horton Hears A Who!,” first published in 1954; donned elephant ears; and assumed different voices for each character.

As a former speech pathologist for elementary students in Oak Park, Weeks said she personally knows the importance of children being read to, as well as reading to others.

“I think this business with the Dr. Seuss books is a good example of (how the life enrichment team works) hard to keep us interested in a lot of things,” Weeks said. “It’s a way we can interact with other generations and then remember how important the generations are after us.”

Weeks said the tagline of “Horton Hears A Who!” — “A person’s a person no matter how small” — especially resonated with her.

“I think Dr. Seuss books are a wonderful way of (helping children of all ages learn more language and getting them hooked on reading),” Weeks said. “I was very pleased to be able to participate.”

While students and seniors couldn’t be in the same room due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caruso said staff recognized the importance of literacy and wanted to encourage others to still get involved.

Prior to the pandemic, Weeks said, residents enjoyed in-person activities, including children’s piano performances and reading opportunities with children, but the senior living community has done a good job of finding ways to engage its residents.

Caruso said Weeks was one of the residents who participated in a pen pal program with Wayne State University students. She added that local elementary students have also sent encouraging cards to residents celebrating holidays such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, and older students sent videos of band and choir performances.

Launched by the National Education Association 1998, Read Across America Day has recently shifted its modus operandi from a heavy focus on Dr. Seuss to a more diversified collection of reading material.

On March 2, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said it would stop printing six books because of racist and insensitive imagery.

March is National Reading Month, and officials encourage students of all ages to keep reading throughout the year.

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