Cat in the Hat costume helps 6th-grader show her schoolmates a Thing or two about reading

For the past three years, Marisa Bist has spent part of her time at Newport Coast Elementary School helping to catalog books in the library.

Sometimes the sixth-grader would sacrifice playing during recess to help out there.

Her dedication as a library aide paid off Thursday afternoon when she got to put on a black and white felt costume and towering red and white striped hat and become the Cat in the Hat while passing out bookmarks to other students as part of the National Education Assn.'s 20th annual Read Across America Day to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday.

"I saw people dress up as Cat in the Hat in previous years and it looked like fun," Marisa, 11, said before changing into the costume and having whiskers drawn on her face by librarian Carmen McCormick. "I want to make little kids happy, and it's important for kids to read."

To honor the late Dr. Seuss, the renowned children's author whose real name was Theodor Geisel, Newport Coast Elementary joined many other schools nationwide that were expected to hold read-a-thons and arts and crafts Thursday, according to the National Education Assn. website.

Activities for the day were planned months in advance by McCormick and student leaders including Marisa and 11-year-old Beyonce Zhou.

Apart from getting to wear the costume, Marisa said she enjoyed reading her favorite Dr. Seuss book, "Green Eggs and Ham," to other students.

Meanwhile, Beyonce had fun teaching younger kids how to make bows similar to the one worn by the Cat in the Hat.

McCormick said Newport Coast Elementary always encourages students to become leaders. Wearing costumes and planning activities for Read Across America Day helps motivate kids to pick up a book and improve their literacy, she said.

Classes were encouraged to participate in a door-decorating contest. The only requirements were that the decor be Dr. Seuss-inspired and be done by hand by students.

The class with the best decorated door wins a full day in the library, meaning no homework is assigned.

One door had multiple Cats in the Hat plastered on it.

Teacher Joni Sommer's second-graders enjoyed In-N-Out burgers and punch outside their classroom as Marisa visited.

Eight-year-old Avery Wyson wore a red and white onesie to show off her favorite Dr. Seuss character, Thing 1 from "The Cat in the Hat."

Other students wore handmade versions of the Cat's red and white hat.

Students and teachers wore their costumes for group pictures with Marisa.

"Not many students make it to three years as a library aide," McCormick said as she watched Marisa hand out bookmarks with a smile on her face. "She's a shy girl, but she was excited once she found out she'd be wearing the costume. It's a really special moment for a student."

priscella.vega@latimes.com

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