The Matt in the hat came back.
It was seven years ago that Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck first donned a replica of the red-and-white striped hat made famous by the Cat in the Hat while reading to students at an area school. Tuesday, Hasselbeck made an encore performance to read a Dr. Seuss book to kindergarten and second-grade classes at Seattle’s Graham Hill Elementary School – yes, wearing that silly cat hat.
The occasion marked the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss to generations of children who grew on his more than 60 books – including “The Cat in the Hat” and “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.” Tuesday also was Read Across America Day.
“Usually when I’m reading books to children it’s late at night and you can get a little tired,” Hasselbeck said. “I didn’t fall asleep, which happens sometimes at home. So it was a success.”
Hasselbeck and his wife, Sarah, have three children – Annabelle, 8; Mallory, 7; and Henry, 4.
“We’ve got second grade, first grade and Henry,” Hasselbeck said, standing in a room filled with second-graders. “So I’m kind of right there. We do this every day, all day.”
Seahawks tight end John Carlson also was there, reading to first- and third-grade classes. But he has a lot less experience reading to kids than Hasselbeck.
“I don’t have any kids yet,” Carlson said. “But I love to read and it’s always great to find time for kids in the community.”
Tuesday’s reading selection was “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” After finishing the book, Hasselbeck and Carlson asked the students where they would like to go. That’s when the diversity of the student body was apparent, as 17 languages are spoken by the kids at Graham Hill. The student’s choices spanned the globe: From Australia, to Somalia, to Israel, to Barcelona, to Greece, to New York, to Los Angeles and several other locations in between.
The teachers then had the students paint pictures of those dream destinations – with a little artistic advice from a couple of professional football players.
Hasselbeck, who also was wearing his No. 8 Seahawks jersey, greeted the students by telling them that he was the team’s quarterback and asking them if they could guess what number he was.
“Eight,” came the chorus of shouts.
“Wow, how could you tell?” Hasselbeck said.
Hasselbeck also told the class what books his kids liked to read.
“Your daughter is lucky that you’re a football player,” one girl said.
Hasselbeck offered, “Really? She doesn’t care that I play football.”
Hasselbeck really scored some points when he told the second-grade class that he didn’t like to read when he was that age because it was “boring.” That changed when he got into the third grade, Hasselbeck said, because the topics of the books became more exciting, which got him more excited about reading.
“I think it’s a great thing they’re doing – encouraging kids to read,” Hasselbeck said. “My message today was to encourage them to read something that they enjoy. There are all kinds of options out there, so just find something – whether it’s animals or science or sports.”
Carlson never had that problem.
“I remember being read to by both parents growing up, and I was also fortunate to have older siblings who were able to do the same,” he said. “To this day, I enjoy reading in my spare time. I had a great time reading to these kids today.”
His Cat-in-the-Hat experience even evoked some memories.
“I was thinking back to my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Schmitt, back in Litchfield, Minn.,” he said between classes. “I don’t have it down as well as she did, and does. Hopefully this next class I’ll improve.”