“Oh, the places you’ll go!” Tacoma police Officer Shelbie Boyd said as she closed the colorful pages of Dr. Seuss’ inspirational tale of the same name.
“And now, who can tell me what this book is about?” she asked a room full of attentive Arlington Elementary School fourth-graders.
Similar scenes were happening across Pierce County on Thursday as local law enforcement, firefighters and even Daffodil Festival princesses visited elementary classrooms to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and the national Read Across America Day.
The visit by Boyd and fellow Officer Sam Lopez didn’t feel like part of a national campaign as they shared the personal moments that made Dr. Seuss so important in their lives.
“Oh, the Places You’ll Go” is Boyd’s favorite Seuss work. She grew up reading it and passed it along to her four children. Now she shares it with hundreds of schoolkids each March.
“This book totally encompasses all the things these kids go through,” Boyd said. “It’s about the decisions. It’s about using your own brain, your own feet and getting yourself in or out of bad situations and on to good things.”
This strikes close to home for Boyd, whose decision to get out of a bad situation and seek help eventually led her to policing.
As a child, Boyd was nearly kidnapped as she and a friend walked to the store one day.
“I was too scared to tell any adults, and I don’t know why I didn’t but I didn’t,” she told the class. “On our way home he tried to get us again, and so I figured I better tell my mom.”
After a visit with the sheriff, Boyd had a new hero.
“And ever since then,” she said, “I looked up to police officers because, not only did he treat me kindly, but he understood the very scary situation. But then the best part was, he caught the bad guy.”
Seuss’ iconic “Green Eggs and Ham” helped Lopez learn English after his family moved to California from Mexico when he was 11.
“I didn’t know how to speak English,” he told the class. “I didn’t know how to read and write. I didn’t know anybody there.
“I had no friends, no family that went to my school, and one day the teacher asked me to do the scariest thing in my life: She asked me to do a book report.”
There was a smattering of understanding around the class.
“That is scary,” one student said.
But in a movie moment, the 11-year-old Lopez stepped up and read, in English, in front of the whole class.
“And somehow I made it through every single page, all the way to the back,” Lopez said. “So it made me think, that hey, even the scariest things out there, you can get through them if you just go forward.”
By sharing stories like these, Boyd and Lopez hope to connect with students and help show that police officers aren’t so scary.
“Even if it’s just one kid who goes, ‘Aha! police are good, and maybe I’ll be a police officer someday,’ or maybe they’ll be in a bad situation and think, ‘I need to find a police officer,’ ” Boyd said. “That’s what it’s about.”