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One Book, Two Books


Clark introduces a new generation
to the wonders of Dr. Seuss


Clark College Bookstore buyer Marti Earhart shares the magic of Dr. Seuss with Fruit Valley Elementary students.
Clark College Bookstore buyer Marti Earhart shares the magic of Dr. Seuss with Fruit Valley Elementary students.

“Hello, everyone!” said Fruit Valley Elementary School principal Debbie Elliott in a cheerful voice. “Do you know whose birthday it is today?”

All around the kindergarten classroom, small hands shot up, and young voices called out, “Dr. Seuss!”

“That’s right,” said Elliott with a smile. “And we have a special treat for you. Our friends at Clark College have brought a Dr. Seuss book for each and every one of you. Isn’t that nice?”

That was the cue for some of the 13 volunteers from Clark College—staff, faculty, and students—to start handing out copies of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. Members of the Clark community had donated 74 copies of the book, in which the beloved children’s tale about a mischievous talking cat was written in both Spanish and English, through a book drive hosted by the Clark Campus Bookstore. The drive, in turn, was part of a larger annual Read Across America event, a national reading campaign of the National Education Association. Clark College sent some 60 volunteers to four different elementary schools as part of the event. According to Clark Service-Learning and Volunteer Program Manager Jody Shulnak, this was the largest turnout she’s seen yet for a Read Across America Event.

Bookstore buyer Derwin
Bookstore buyer Derwin “Kaina” Barba at Fruit Valley Elementary School.

Clark College has formal partnerships with Harney, Fruit Valley and Washington Elementary Schools as part of the Partnership for Service in Schools Project, which aims to both improve the school success of disadvantaged youth and provide college students with opportunities for high-quality service-learning. 

The Clark College ESL program helped to coordinate the reading event at a fourth school, Mill Plain Elementary, creating an invaluable opportunity for ESL students to practice their English-speaking skills and talk about their diverse cultures.  Sixteen ESL student volunteers read Dr. Seuss books to students at Mill Plain.  They were given their designated Dr. Seuss book a week in advance to allow them time to practice the challenging tongue-twisters Dr. Seuss is famous for. 

At Fruit Valley, volunteers divided into teams to visit four different kindergarten classrooms. In teacher Nicole Halstead’s class, four volunteers sat at tables reading to groups of children. Spanish 122 student Benjamin Wick had come prepared with his own flashcards depicting some of the books words (like “cake” and “cat”) in Spanish. Halstead looked on with pleasure. “This is a real treat for the kids,” she said, adding that four of her students spoke Spanish at home. “It’s nice to have the books in Spanish as well, because it helps validate what they experience at home.”

Clark College Spanish student Jamie Fowler readers from a bilingual edition of

Clark College Spanish student Jaime Fowler reads from a bilingual edition of "The Cat in the Hat."

For Wick, reading to children in Halstead’s class turned out to be a revelatory experience. “That day really opened my eyes,” Wick said during an interview afterward. “Previous to that, I hadn’t really thought about teaching. But now I’m wondering, ‘Hey, is that my calling?’ “

Wick, who is 30 and recently returned to school after leaving the banking industry, said he was also inspired by seeing Halstead. “I was looking at her and thinking, ‘You know, she’s about my age, and she’s got a job that it looks like she really loves,’ “ he said. “I don’t know, I’m still considering different ideas, but it really got me thinking.”

As it happens, Halstead is a Clark College alumna (class of 2000). She went on to get her teaching degree at University of Washington, but said she would advise any aspiring teacher to get their start at Clark, with its manageable class sizes. “I realized when I got to UW that the introductory education courses had 700 students in them,” she said.

Volunteers for various academic support activities are always needed at Mill Plain, Fruit Valley, Harney and Washington Elementary Schools, as well as at other schools in the area.  For more information on opportunities to serve, contact Clark College Service-Learning & Volunteer Program Manager Jody Shulnak at 360-992-2447 or the school of your choice.

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