Garth Brooks has been named the honorary chairman of the National Education Association's Read Across America 2002 campaign. Brooks will be featured in radio, TV, and print public service announcement

Garth Brooks has been named the honorary chairman of the National Education Association's Read Across America 2002 campaign. Brooks will be featured in radio, TV, and print public service announcements, and will act as the official spokesman for the organization's annual celebration of children's author Theodor Seuss Geisel.

For the past five years, the organization has honored the author -- better known as Dr. Seuss -- on March 2, the day of his birth (Geisel died in 1991 at 87). The event has been celebrated by children, teens, and adults who carve out time from their school and work schedules to read on his birthday. As March 2 falls on a Saturday, the 2002 celebration will take place on March 1.

"With Garth Brooks at the helm of the 2002 celebration, we expect more participants than ever," said NEA President Bob Chase in a statement. "And the message he will help us to spread is an important one: Kids who read -- and who are read to -- outside of school do better in school."

Such duties are not new to Brooks, as he has often visited his friend, teacher Judy Cummings, and her first grade class in Tennessee. In 1991, Cummings was moonlighting in a Nashville clothing store when "a tall, lanky young guy walked in to buy a shirt," she recalls. "Like many others, he wanted to make a name for himself in 'Music City,' but wasn't there yet. He was kind of down, so we struck up a conversation, and I invited him to come read to my class. Back then, he had lots of time."

The country music star says reading to the class "is a real treat. There's nothing better than watching a kid's eyes light up over a good story." And the experience prepared him for reading to his own kids, Taylor, August, and Allie. "I read to them every night, and it's the highlight of my day," he says.

Last year's Read Across America attracted more than 35 million readers, according to the NEA.


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