WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama welcomed thousands of children and families to the White House Easter Egg Roll Monday, calling it "one of the greatest White House traditions."
Shortly after kicking off the event, the first family walked to the storytime stage to read to a group of children. Entering the area, Obama shook hands with many of the children in the front row.
The president read "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak, which he called "one of my favorite books." He stood in front of the seated children, slowly rotating the book, so that everyone could see the pictures.
Obama pointed to one picture in the book and said, "That's a wild thing. It's like a dragon-looking thing." At one point, he got the group of children to try staring without blinking their eyes. One little girl's eyes were so big the President started laughing.
Mr. Obama asked the children if they had ever been in a "wild rumpus" like the book was describing. As he read about the imaginary beasts in the book and the adventures of the book's main character (a little boy named Max wearing a wolf suit), Mr. Obama howled and spoke in a monster voice.
"You guys look like you have a wild rumpus all the time," he told the kids.
At the end of the story he asked, "Are there any wild things here? I just want to make sure," and issued a soft wild thing-like growl along with the cheering of the crowd.
Next, Mrs. Obama and her mother took turns reading "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," by Laura Joffe Numeroff . The first daughters turned the pages of an oversized copy of the book to show the illustrations.
Music star Fergie sang the National Anthem before the president greeted the crowd.
The White House allotted tickets for the event to gay and lesbian parents as part of the administration's effort to reach out to diverse communities. Representatives from Family Equality Council, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other groups confirmed earlier that they were invited and encouraged to have their members participate.
See video of the event:
See a slideshow of the Obamas playing during the event: