Hold on to your hat, the Cat is back! And Thing One and Thing Two are making a special appearance just for you. So be sure to tell Fish it’s all in good fun. We’ll clean up the mess before you count to one!
Taking the lead from Dr. Seuss, Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., traded in his clerical collar for a tall striped hat and tie with no collar on March 2 for Read Across America.
It’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday, says Ron, and also the National Education Association’s Read Across America, a nationwide event designed to get children excited about reading. For the past 14 years, the association has held the event on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
Dressed as the Cat in the Hat, Ron participates in the event by reading books to children at schools where some members of Bethany teach. And standing at 6-foot-5 underneath the tall striped hat, he delights in the children’s amazement when entering the classroom.
“There’s something holy about reading to someone and being read to,” says Ron.
Ron did not speak until the age of 3. Words came alive for him through his mother and grandmother, who read to him daily.
“Their commitment to reading serves as my point of inspiration. I’ve made it my personal mission to enlighten, entertain and evangelize, particularly when it’s stressing the importance of children’s literacy,” he says.
“I delight in bringing joy. It’s all about the power of the Word, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us,” he says.
Assisting the Cat are Bethany’s associate pastor, Ruth Ann Loughry, and pastoral intern, Jessica Harris Daum, who don the roles of Thing One and Thing Two.
Reading helps build bridges
Gail Beard believes reading helps parents and children maintain a loving relationship, particularly among children whose parents are incarcerated.
“Many kids don’t get to see their parents in prison because of the long distance and high cost of travel,” she says.
To help bridge that heartbreaking gap Gail directs the Storybook Project, a Lutheran Social Services of Illinois program that helps keep children and incarcerated parents connected. The project has been around for the past 13 years.
“Storybook allows the parents to send their voice to their children,” says Gail.
With the help of volunteers, incarcerated parents select a book and record themselves reading that book to their children. The recording and book are then sent to the child.
“The enclosed CD recording also allows parents to say, ‘I love you. I miss you. I’m always thinking about you.’ And as the children listen to the CD, for those few minutes they are reassured that mom or dad is safe and has not forgotten about them,” says Gail.
Over the years, Gail has heard story after story of children who fall sleep listening to their book. She also receives calls and letters from teachers.
“I had a teacher from a grade school call me to share that a little boy in her classroom asked if he could bring a book to school. The teacher said yes, but that he needed to focus in class. Throughout the day, the boy would gently pat the book that rested on the corner of his desk. Later, the teacher learned that the book was sent to him from his incarcerated mother.”
“These stories are so touching,” Gail says. “Reading makes it all possible.”
The first full week of March also marks Lutheran Schools Week, when the ELCA celebrates the ministries of this church’s 1,600 early childhood education centers, elementary and secondary schools. All ELCA schools and education centers are ministries of an ELCA congregation or multiple ELCA congregations.