The annual Read Across America Day and celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday has been extra special for Portland.

This year, we also celebrate that Portland is home to Maine’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, Karen MacDonald, and that Portland is the first city in northern New England to join the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a nationwide network of more than 140 communities working to improve reading proficiency for all children by the end of third grade.

Knowing that third-grade reading proficiency is a critical milestone on the pathway to success, more of us than ever donned “Cat in the Hat” hats and read aloud to children throughout Portland schools this week and last.

Principals, educators, librarians and a whole array of local celebrities, including the mayor, joined hundreds of children in reading celebrations at schools and learning programs all over town.

But this day is just one of many, and schools cannot do it alone. The work of raising strong readers starts early and continues each day at home.

We hope that parents, grandparents and caregivers will talk, sing and read aloud with their children at home this day and every day. Even just 15 minutes a day makes a huge difference.

And we intend to keep working throughout our community, before and after the bell and all year long to increase reading outcomes by the end of third grade. Working together, we can all give our children the gift of proficiency by celebrating words and reading every day.

Michael P. Dixon

executive director, Portland ConnectED

Portland