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Univision visits Boys & Girls Club for Read Across America event
The Cat In the Hat makes a surprise appearance Friday afternoon at the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Joseph F. Walters location on Memorial Park Drive in Gainesville. The children were celebrating Read Across America Day, which honors the March 2 birthday of Dr. Seuss.

Children at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County celebrated reading with a Latin flair on Friday.

Representatives from Univision, the largest Spanish television network in the world, arrived Friday at the Joseph F. Walters Club in Gainesville to celebrate the National Education Association’s annual Read Across America event, which coincides with the March 2 birthday of popular children’s author Dr. Seuss.

“We were lucky that they actually came,” said Fabiola Martinez, parent coordinator at the club’s facility. She said a friend heard that Univision was involved in reading programs for Latino children, so she sent an email to have a Univision guest at her reading event. Univision said yes.

“I called the parents and called the parents, sent out two flyers so they would come to the celebration,” Martinez said.

Due to her monthlong effort, 34 parents arrived with their children to hear Seuss’ books read by Univision people, while also engaging in crafts and art projects themed around the books.

“We cut up fruit and used toothpicks to create edible art arrangements,” Unit Director Mark Mendoza said. The activity goes along with one of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ goals to introduce healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, he said.

Following the true tradition of Read Across America, the children wore red-and-white “Cat In the Hat”-style paper hats.

A surprise guest also wore a red-and-white striped hat, along with a strategically placed red bow on a tuxedo-patterned fur coat — the Cat in the Hat, played by Hannah Merchant, 16, a senior at Flowery Branch High School.

“I remember the “Cat In the Hat,” and now I am the Cat in the Hat,” Merchant said. She said she came to the club to meet school community service requirements but decided to stay as a volunteer for almost five months.
Mendoza said he also has fond memories of Seuss.

“He was unconventional — off the wall,” he said. But even more important to Mendoza, Dr. his books created sounds from fictional characters — like rhythm, phonic awareness and sequences, along with fluency of language.
“I want children to want to read books rather than have to read books,” he said. Mendoza finds children reading on bean bags, under the trees in the summer and sometimes under tables in the facility.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Suess, would have been 109 years old this March. His famous “Cat In the Hat” book used 250 words that all first-graders should understand. Geisel also wrote “The Grinch” and “Green Eggs and Ham.”

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, high education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired teachers and students preparing to become teachers. Read Across America is celebrated every year with various events at local schools.