PLEASANTVILLE — South Main Elementary Street School students lined up for hugs from the Cat in the Hat during a surprise visit Thursday.

The school’s gym was filled with students wearing handmade hats worn by the Dr. Seuss character — some 2 feet high — as part of a school-wide event to celebrate Read Across America Day, which is celebrated nationwide today.

Second-grade teacher Eugene Croff was reading from “The Cat in the Hat” book. When he came to the part where the title character enters the story, the cat himself walked into the gym.

It was a surprise to the students, including some first-graders who have been learning about the rhyming style used by Dr. Seuss and the merchandise — including shirts, cups, mugs, lunchboxes — that has kept appreciation of the mischievous cat popular in mainstream culture.

First-grade student Yamilez Gil-Hernandez described the 45-minute process of making the tall hats.

“We took big white paper. And then we glued on the red paper,” she said. They then rolled the paper and “put it through the hole.” A paper plate served as the base and had the center cut out, so the sheet of paper could fit through and be stapled to the rim.

Some of the students also put a “capital C” on the hats.

The easiest part was gluing on the red stripes, said first-grader Jamzin Herrera

The students also have learned about the life of Theodor Seuss Geisel, ,whose birthday is Saturday, and the ongoing popularity of various books he has authored. Some of the students took turns naming their favorite ones, of which “Green Eggs and Ham” was most popular in the group of about 20.

Leo Ventura, a kindergartener, was excited about the hats they made. The kindergarteners had paper cut-outs of hats stapled to a headband. Each one had colored the red stripes, some inside and some outside the lines.

JanCarlo Flores, another kindergartener, said he was most excited about reading the books. They read “Green Eggs and Ham” and had a guest reader as well throughout the week.

Read Across America Day is celebrated to promote reading. The Cat in the Hat mascot was provided Thursday by the New Jersey Education Association. Earlier in the day, students participated in an awards ceremony highlighting reading growth in the classroom. One hundred dollars was given to the class showing the most improvement, based on scores of an online reading program.

Students were particularly excited by the visit from the Cat in the Hat.

Kindergartener Cartiear Long turned around after exiting the gym and said, “Bye Cat in the Hat, I love you!”

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