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Millions celebrating Dr. Seuss with 'Read Across America'


Cal Ripken Jr. talks about his feelings on kids and books

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House Speaker Dennis Hastert reads "Green Eggs and Ham"
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(CNN) -- Across the country, from Capitol Hill to Hawaii, an estimated 20 million people were taking part Tuesday in the National Education Association's "Read Across America" campaign by celebrating the works of Dr. Seuss.

Baltimore Orioles baseball star Cal Ripken, the honorary chairman of the event, said teaching reading is important because it's "the first step in education." The annual reading celebration is held on the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote such classic children's books as "The Cat in the Hat," "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and "Green Eggs and Ham." Geisel -- better known as Dr. Seuss -- would have been 95 on March 2.

Ripken, sitting before a group of children sporting "Cat in the Hat" hats, said his children helped him rediscover the joy of reading. "By reading with them, and especially with Dr. Seuss, you can be goofy, you can be funny and we just have a great time doing it. I've always thought that reading was very important. If you really look at it very simply, it's the first step in education. If you can read, you can learn and access information."

Politicians also joined the celebrations. President Clinton, in an audio tape released by the White House, urged Americans to take part in "Read Across America."

"I encourage all caring adults to get involved," Clinton said. "Read to children on 'Read Across America' Day -- and read to them every day. Together, we can make our children the best readers in the world."

Meanwhile, House Speaker Dennis Hastert -- wearing a "Cat in the Hat" tie -- gave an enthusiastic reading of "Green Eggs and Ham" to a group of schoolchildren in Washington, D.C.

In state houses from Hawaii to Florida, governors signed proclamations declaring March 2 as Read Across America Day.

The NEA says it originally chose to incorporate Dr. Seuss' birthday with a national reading campaign because his style of rhyming literature introduces many young children to the world of reading.

By the time he died in 1991, Geisel had published 44 children's books under the Dr. Seuss name, including the popular "The Cat in the Hat." His first book, "And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" was published in 1937. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984.

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