By Sue Brink, NAVFAC Southeast Public Affairs
MERIDIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Meridian Public Works Department Contracting Officer Jason Clayton brightens the faces of many children during the week-long celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday March 2.
"I've been doing it for about four years now," said Clayton. "It started with my daughter and son's daycare."
The week of Dr. Seuss' birthday is typically set aside by many schools to celebrate reading and parents are encouraged to come and read to their children in their classrooms.
"I've worked with the four and five year-old kids at my church for several years and I've learned that children get distracted easily," said Clayton. "So I figured instead of just going up there and reading, I would paint my face to get into the spirit of the thing, maybe hold their attention a little better.
The teachers and kids loved it so much, they asked if Clayton could do it again the following year. The next year he went in black jeans, black T-shirt with a red tie made out of some scraps, and painted his face.
"I was subsequently marched around to several rooms to wave and say hello to the children," said Clayton.
The daycare is an extension of Clayton's church and word of his extracurricular activities got around. One of the secretaries (Jill Gavin) of Lamar Elementary, a local private school, asked if CIayton would be willing to come and read to their children.
"I decided this was getting to be a bigger deal than t-shirt and jeans, so I ordered a 'Cat in the Hat' costume and wore it to Lamar," said Clayton. "They set me up in the library and invited in their three and four year-olds to listen to me read. Last year, Lamar invited me back, and this time placed me at the front door of the school. I read to anyone that came in the door, kindergarten through 5th grade."
Clayton visited Lamar this year on March 2.
NAS Meridian PWD Supervisory General Engineer Max Sisson asked Clayton if he would make time during the week to visit his son's kindergarten class at Clarkdale Elementary. Once there, he was paraded around to every kindergarten class.
Clayton was also contacted by the director of the Wesley House Community Center, an organization in Meridian dedicated to a variety of community outreach from child education and poverty relief to sexual assault advocacy and GED programs. The director asked if Clayton could read to the Wesley Wonders Preschool, a low cost preschool for three and four year-olds and he visited there and Clarkdale March 1.
"I have a very generous supervisor," said Clayton. "She allows me to take the personal leave to go read to the kids."
Held annually on March 2, Dr. Seuss Day is a day that celebrates the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel - otherwise known by the pen name by which he authored children's books: Dr. Seuss. During the 1990s, the National Education Association advocated for a day to celebrate reading all over the United States. In 1998, it started Read Across America and decided to hold it on the same day as Dr. Seuss' birthday.
"As to why I do it, mostly, it just gives everyone something special to see; a change from their typical day," said Clayton. "The smaller kids come up and hug me as if I was the genuine article. As for me, I love the look in the children's faces; those few seconds that they have to consider whether or not they want to give into the fantasy of it all, and then the huge smiles when they do. It's a reminder to take time to play, and to enjoy that innocence that comes to them so easily. It's like my-in-laws like to tell me, you have to grow old, God willing...but you don't have to grow up."
NAVFAC strives on its ability to hire devoted and talented people; employees whose core values shine through at work and at play. The true power of NAVFAC lies within the devotion and talent of its workforce.