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Gather up the family and head out to the Payson Public Library.

Family Reading Night with the Cat in the Hat, in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday, is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 2 at the Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road, in Rumsey Park.

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The magic of reading aloud cannot be missed in the rapture in a child's face as they listen to a story come to life. Everyone is invited to enjoy the magic at Family Reading Night, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2 at the Payson Public Library.

There will be a $1 dinner, with hot dogs, chips, punch and cookies, served from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The highlight of the evening is a lively performance at 6:30 p.m. by Richard Haddad as Dr. Seuss reading his favorite stories.

"He's always our star," said Terry Morris, director of the library.

There will be free drawings, and a hat for every child at the end of the program.

Please join them in bringing the joy of reading to your child.

This event is sponsored by the Payson Public Library and the Library Friends of Payson.

In the past, the library has always been packed with Rim country children who enjoyed Dr. Seuss stories and prizes.

"With both children and parents, we average about 200 to 250 people at Family Reading Night," Morris said. This is the fifth year the library has presented the program, she said.

"It's a great opportunity to encourage parents to read to their kids and for kids to read to their parents," Morris said.

She considers it an opportunity for the entire community to come together and celebrate reading.

"And you don't need a computer to do it," she added.

Margaret Jesus, the children's librarian, said the event is one that often draws people to the library who have never attended anything else.

"Then they come back to see what else we have," she said.

The children's library has picture books for children who are not yet reading, reading readiness books for those just getting ready to learn, easier readers and even a growing selection of bilingual books.

The materials range from those for non-readers to youngsters with fifth or sixth-grade reading skills. Children will more advanced skills have their own young adult section.

Jesus said the children's library also has a cross-reference list of books young people can read as part of the school district's accelerated reader program.

"We also have a story time at 10:30 every Wednesday morning and a free summer program," Jesus said.

The fun of Family Reading Night is all part of the annual Read Across America Day, a celebration corresponding with author Theodor Geisel's (Dr. Seuss) birthday, created by the National Education Association.

Read Across America is now in its eighth year. Celebrated annually on Dr. Seuss' birthday, March 2, it is designed to generate enthusiasm for reading nationwide and focus the country's attention on how important it is to motivate children to read. Reading opens the doors to achievement, and Read Across America Day celebrations -- whether large or small -- are crucial building blocks toward making the joys of reading an integral part of every child's life.

Why celebrate Dr. Seuss?

Dr. Seuss is the most beloved children's author of all time. His use of rhyme makes his books an effective tool for teaching young children the basic skills they need to be successful and develop a life-long love of reading.

Celebrating Dr. Seuss and reading sends a clear message to our children that reading is both fun and important.

Who was Dr. Seuss?

"A person's a person, no matter how small," Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, would say. "Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted."

Brilliant, playful, and always respectful of children, Dr. Seuss charmed his way into the consciousness of four generations of youngsters and parents. In the process, he helped millions of kids learn to read.

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel in Springfield, Mass., on March 2, 1904. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1925, he went to Oxford University, intending to acquire a doctorate in literature. At Oxford, Geisel met Helen Palmer, whom he wed in 1927. Upon his return to America later that year, Geisel published cartoons and humorous articles for Judge, the leading humor magazine in America at the time. His cartoons also appeared in major magazines such as Life, Vanity Fair and Liberty.

Geisel gained national exposure when he won an advertising contract for an insecticide called Flit. He coined the phrase, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" which became a popular expression.

Geisel developed the idea for his first children's book in 1936 while on a vacation cruise. The rhythm of the ship's engine drove the cadence to "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street."

During World War II, Geisel joined the Army and was sent to Hollywood where he wrote documentaries for the military. During this time, he also created a cartoon called Gerald McBoing-Boing which won him an Oscar.

The Cat in the Hat is born

In May 1954, Life published a report on illiteracy among school children, suggesting that children were having trouble reading because their books were boring. This problem inspired Geisel's publisher, prompting him to send Geisel a list of 400 words he felt were important for children to learn. The publisher asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and use them to write an entertaining children's book. Nine months later, Geisel, using 220 of the words given to him, published The Cat in the Hat, which brought instant success.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and three Academy Awards, Geisel authored and illustrated 44 children's books. His enchanting stories are available as audio cassettes, animated television specials, and videos.

While Theodor Geisel died on Sept. 24, 1991, Dr. Seuss lives on, inspiring generations of children of all ages to explore the joys of reading.

(National event and biographical material from National Education Association website on Read Across America. Information for biography courtesy of Random House.)

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