NORRISTOWN – Judge Gregory Scott knows about the powers books possess.
Not only from a judicial perspective and the “throw the book at him” cliché.
Growing up in poverty in Norristown, Scott spent hours after school at the Norristown Public Library where he did his homework and read. Inside the pages of books, he was transported to far away lands and key points in history. He would go onto make history himself in 2015 when, at 28-years-old, he became the youngest sitting judge in Pennsylvania. He also is the first African-American district judge.
“I didn’t know I was in poverty. My vacations were in a book. I would go to the library travel section and go to Paris, Italy and London. I envisioned myself in those places,” recalled Scott.
On a windy, snowy Friday afternoon, Scott visited Marshall Street Elementary School. It isn’t only an alma mater, it is a place where his love of reading was developed and it allowed him to give back to his former teacher, Donna Freeman.
It was Read Across America Day in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and Freeman had a day planned for her fourth graders around the theme, “Dr. Seuss travels through Black History Month with us.” It featured visits and readings from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Scott, Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence and Norristown community advocate Buck Jones.
“Black History is American history. I think it’s great schools can integrate it into their teaching curriculum,” said Lawrence, a devout fan of Dr. Seuss, who donned the signature Seuss “Cat in the Hat” headwear. “Dr. Seuss teaches kids and adults a love of reading. He teaches about life, too,”
Scott spoke about the challenges of running for judge, the duties of his position and what inspires him. The students, equipped with biographies of their guests, asked informed question of Scott and the other visitors. For Freeman, it is integral her students ask questions of what they are reading.
“I encourage them to ask questions and not sit and wait. Questioning empowers you,” said Freeman.
Scott explained to student, dressed in pajamas for the special day, the importance why he makes time to give back.
“I’m successful in part because of a woman like Ms. Freeman. I used to think she was really hard but you’ll appreciate it later,” said Scott. “If she calls and asks me to do something it will get my attention. I think very highly of her. Those types of people who help you, you want to pay them back.”
‘I’m not here for you to like me,” said Freeman. “I’m here to make sure you are educated and can walk out as a strong student.”
Freeman, a first grader teacher when Scott was a student, recalled how he always wore a suit and tie, even in grade school.
“He was always meticulous about everything he did. I always knew he was going to go far,” said Freeman.
“Ms. Freeman made a mark on my life. The time she spent with me has helped shape me,” said Scott. “It’s important to show kids who grow up in the community where I was raised, and still live in, that you can be successful and not be a football player or basketball player and be successful by doing good things.”
Norristown Area School District held events in each school to celebrate Read Across America Day.