McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 9, 2014

School hosts 'Cat in the Hat' Guinness record attempt

It's a book thing

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Where’s the Cat in the Hat?

Where’s he at?

Where, oh where, is the Cat in the Hat?

Someone must have said “Scat Cat!”

Wait, we’ve found the Cat in the Hat.

The Jefferson Early Childhood Center is where he’s at.

Fill a room with 191 smiling, enthusiastic individuals — including 171 early childhood students — along with music, dancing and a costumed feline with a funny hat, and what do you get?

An attempt to help set a new Guinness World Record.

Students at McAlester Public Schools Jefferson Early Childhood Center were host to the Cat in the Hat on Friday.

The Cat stopped by as part of the school’s Read Across America Celebration as well as a Guinness World Record attempt.

Along with students from MPS’ William Gay and Washington Early Childhood centers, they were attempting to set a world’s record for the most people to don a Cat in the Hat hat. They were part of a 20-school network across the state participating in the Guinness World Record attempt.

Among those stopping in to help were McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison and MPS Superintendent Marsha Gore, along with assists from Jerry Johnson and Cal Ware from the Oklahoma Education Association.

With local OEA Chapter President Brenda Calahan singing, dancing and leading the way, the assembled students all donned their special Cat in the Hat hats at the same time following a backwards countdown.

“Five-four-three-two-one, yay!” Students and staff shouted as they donned the red and white headwear in unison.

Before the world record attempt, Dr. Gore spoke to the youngsters about her own love of reading.

“The reason I love to read is that it can take me all over the world,” she said. “I never have to leave my living room, my house, my bed.

“The other reason I like to read is books are my best friend.” She still has books given to her when she was their age, Gore told the students.

Before reading some passages from “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss, Gore let the students know she’s already tried the dish.

“My daddy was the best maker of green eggs and ham,” she said.

Mayor Harrison read some passages from “Cat in the Hat” after he addressed the students on the importance of reading.

“When I was growing up, I loved Dr. Seuss,” Harrison said. “Even today, I read every day,” he said.

After he finished reading, Harrison led the students in a special oath, which began, “I promise to read, each day and each night; I know that reading is the key to growing up right.”

Puterbaugh Principal Sabra Tucker also addressed the students after relating what reading means to her.

“Do you know I took a trip to the moon?” she asked. “Do you know how I did that? I read a book.”

She told the children they can read and use their imaginations to go anywhere.

Near the conclusion of the Read Across America Celebration, the students all received a couple of special surprises, which brought a cheering response.

“You get to keep your hat,” Calahan said, relating the first surprise, and then moving on to the second. “Guess what? Every one of you are going to get a Dr. Seuss book!”

Jefferson Early Childhood Center Principal Stacie Fryer said she felt pleased at how enthusiastic and well-behaved the children were.

“We’re so proud of them” she said. “I thank the OEA for selecting us.”

She believes the event is beneficial to the students.

“It helps develop a lifetime of reading,” she said.

Jacki Washington, a teacher’s assistant for Kristen Corder, said the students were excited because they’d been reading and watching videos about Dr. Seuss all week.

“This is a big event,” she said.

McAlester High School students who were part of the MHS Service Learning Class served as volunteers, helping pass out hats and books.

Afterwards, MHS student Chelsie Peckio said she felt the event went really well.

“It was hard to get some of them to keep their hats on, but they were really excited about it, so it was a good day,” she said.

Also among the volunteers were MHS students Niclaus Porter, who donned a costume to portray the Cat in the Hat, along with MHS student Chad Meadows, who portrayed the red Thing 1, and Brandon Green, who portrayed Thing 2.

Johnson, speaking for the OEA, sounded confident the McAlester students and those from the other schools will help set a new  Guinness record for the most people to don a Cat in the Hat hat at the same time.

Timekeepers and independent witnesses were in place in each school, and video recordings and still photographs were taken, he said.

“With the 20 schools, it will set a world’s record,” Johnson predicted.

When that happens, the students can always remember they helped set the world record mark, he said.

“Kids are aware of setting records,” said Johnson.

Contact James Beaty at