Guests filed through Lenoir City Elementary School all day Friday, some dressed in fun outfits and nearly all wearing red, black and white.

Each picked a book by Dr. Seuss to read to an assigned class as part of a celebration of Read Across America Day, which falls on the birthday of the beloved late author.

The hope was to help inspire a love of reading, especially for the youngest students in the school.

“If they find books that they enjoy reading and listening to then they’re more likely to read independently as they get older,” Kristin Sparks, a kindergarten teacher at LCES, said. “To foster that love of reading at a young age is helpful because they’ll want to continue reading for the rest of their life.”

Reading skills are building blocks, Sparks said. Making sure children enjoy reading makes it easier to build upon those skills at each step.

“They’re going to be able to build the skills to move on to high school and college and into their career,” she said.

Leigh Wiley, another LCES kindergarten teacher, stressed reading is not something that only carries students through school. Reading is a lifelong journey.

The ability to create a fun atmosphere and show children many business professionals and community leaders embrace reading is valuable.

“Reading is a lifelong thing,” Wiley said. “We’re going to be doing it for the rest of our lives. Teaching them right now that we need to learn how to read but how to enjoy reading so that they’ll want to do this for the rest of their life and to see it as a fun thing to do is just an amazing gift that we can give to them.”

State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, was a guest reader at LCES Friday morning. Matlock stressed there is plenty of data to back up the importance of reading and developing those skills early rather than trying to play catch-up later.

“We know that if by the third grade you are not reading proficiently you are finding life in every area to be more challenging,” Matlock said. “If you are very good at reading by the fifth grade then the chances of you finishing high school are almost 96 percent. We know that if you don’t get the reading skills at an early age you almost never catch up.”

Stressing reading skills was only one reason many of the visitors stopped by Friday. Another was simply to be involved in the schools in the local community.

“It gives us a chance to engage in the school, which is where all the important things happen in a child’s life,” Matlock said. “It gives us an opportunity to support the school, and I like to encourage the children to read. It gives me a chance to kind of say to them how successful people will be if they’ll try reading as a life exercise.”

Many students dressed for the day as their favorite Dr. Seuss character. Some carried stuffed animals of those characters.

Teachers and staff wore hats from “Cat in the Hat” as they worked.

“We work so hard all the time on all the skills and strategies for learning how to read and with little kids reading is hard work,” Wiley said. “Today we’re just celebrating the fun of reading and the joy of reading.”