The National Education Association rolled out the red carpet last week for a star-studded read-in at the historic New York Public Library to kick off the 16th annual Read Across America Day.

Academy Award-nominated actress Uma Thurman and Jake T. Austin, star of the Emmy-winning “Wizards of Waverly Place” and ABC Family’s “The Fosters,” were on hand for the special read-in, sponsored by NEA and Renaissance Dental, to provide some Seuss-style reading inspiration to more than 250 children from New York City public schools.

“As a mother of three, with one now a teenager, I’ve see the benefits of reading to and with my children throughout the span of childhood,” said Thurman, who read The Cat in the Hat. “Reading has helped develop my children and our family. Spending that time together means so much.”

NEA’s Read Across America, which has become the nation’s largest reading celebration with more than 45 million participating annually, highlights the importance of developing a love for reading at an early age.

“Reading enables us to explore our imaginations,” said Austin. “As an actor, I get to be different characters and experience different worlds. I want children to be able to do the same through a good book.”

This year, NEA’s Read Across America is delivering a very important message to students: 2 × 2 + 20 = good oral health and literacy habits. By asking children and their parents to brush for two minutes, two times per day, and read for 20 minutes each day, NEA and Renaissance Dental hope to increase the awareness of how poor oral health can negatively impact a child’s education in formative years when reading skills are developed.

“This Read Across America Day, we want students to sink their teeth into a good book,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “When students are absent from class due to oral health problems, they’re missing out on critical instruction time. Everyone from Horton to the Grinch can benefit from developing good oral health and reading habits.”

Reports show that American students miss 51 million hours of school every year because of oral health problems. In fact, tooth decay continues to be the single most common chronic childhood illness. Recent findings out of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC revealed students who experience oral health pain are four times more likely to have lower grade point averages. Still other studies reveal that students who don’t read at grade level by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school.

“The sad part about these alarming statistics is that many of these oral health issues can be easily prevented and easily fixed,” said Rob Mulligan , president and CEO at Renaissance Dental. “Visiting the dentist and developing good brushing habits early on is key to preventing issues down the road. We feel that one of the best ways to communicate this message is by reaching out to educators, children and their parents through the classroom during the early educational years—and Renaissance Dental’s partnership with NEA’s Read Across America allows us to do this.”

The award-winning literacy program was founded by NEA in 1997 through a partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises , L.P., and Random House. NEA’s Read Across America Day is celebrated every year on or around the birthday of Dr. Seuss, the beloved children’s book author.

“The success behind NEA’s Read Across America is that it gets kids excited about reading,” added Van Roekel. “When children love to the read, Oh, the places they can go!”

Source: PR Newswire

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