CORNELIUS — Parents, community leaders and business representatives took time out of their day Feb. 28 to promote the importance of reading at J.V Washam Elementary.

Schools nationwide put extra emphasis on reading around the time of Dr. Seuss’ March 2 birthday in an initiative called Read Across America. This year, it kicked off March 3, but students at J.V. Washam Elementary celebrated a little bit early, holding events Feb. 24-28.

Led by the literacy committee, including first-grade teacher Caitlin Alcorn, students had special reading activities planned each day. It culminated Friday by inviting community members to read books to the youth.

“We wanted to show kids that no matter what you do when you grow up, you still need to be a good reader,” Alcorn said. “It doesn’t stop when you graduate from school.”

In Rebekah Lonon’s second-grade class, students begged their reader, Literacy Facilitator Jessica Mize-Wilson, for a second story. While reading, she demonstrated to students the importance of looking at the illustrations to relate them to the story and find other surprises. After pointing out a picture, one youngster said she was trying to connect things in the book with real stuff.

This was the first year inviting the community, but Alcorn said she hopes it will continue.

Other events for the week were “drop everything to read” with everyone in school stopping what they were doing to read at the same time; an  exchange with students swapping books from their personal libraries to get new ones, while filling up classroom libraries; reading with technology; and buddy reading, where students read together in pairs.

First-grader Miller Dalton read about dinosaurs while wearing a "Cat in the Hat"-inspired craft. Miller said he really likes to read nonfiction books by himself so he can read quietly in his head and understand what they are saying.

Second-grader Chloe Brooks said she likes to read mysteries like her mother, while Ava Gossett simply likes to read fiction.

Ava said she enjoys reading because it allows them to “explore places in your mind." Added Chloe, “Explore places you’ve never seen before!”