Which American writer has had the greatest impact on children’s literature? His birthday, March 2nd, is the date that is annually designated as Read Across America day. Yes, you’re right – it is Dr. Seuss!
As we began planning Dr. Seuss week at the BNI, I realized how little I knew about Dr. Seuss and decided it was time to learn more. Theodore Geisel was born March 2nd in Springfield, MA and grew up in a prosperous extended family. It was during college that he discovered his love of designing books with pictures and words. He added the title Dr. before Seuss (his mother’s maiden name) to lend credibility to his writing and characters and in reaction to his father’s wish that his son would get a doctorate. He wrote two to three books a year almost without pause between 1957 and 1976. He wrote a book on a dare when his publisher bet him that he couldn’t complete a story using only 50 different words … and he did, Green Eggs and Ham. His final book, What Pet Should I Get, was published in 2015.
Why has Dr. Seuss endured? Young children enjoy his imaginative characters, vivid illustrations and catchy rhymes. They can read Dr. Seuss books many times without tiring of the rhythms, plots or art. For older children, the moral lessons in Dr. Seuss stories contribute to the learning experiences.
There has been a buzz in the school this week as we celebrate Dr. Seuss and Read Across America. Yes, it is different this year as all of our readers are virtual. But, the importance of reading whether it is in-person or virtual cannot be underestimated. We know that by the age of 3, children born into low-income families heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their affluent peers. Only 53% of children, ages 3 – 5, are read to daily by a family member. Yet, children who are read to frequently are also more likely to count to 20 or higher, write their own name and read or pretend to read. Unfortunately, the pandemic has resulted in parents reading significantly less to their preschool children.
As I look back, Ryan started reading words when he was 3 years old and quickly moved on to the short “Bob” books. As he continued in elementary school, I realized that although he was very fluent, his comprehension skills were weak. This was a struggle throughout his educational career. He never developed my “love of reading,” but I am still not giving up!
As Dr. Seuss said, “The more you read, the more things you will know, the more you learn, the more places you will go.” I concur!
PS: Ryan and I are celebrating Dr. Seuss with green eggs and ham on Wednesday. Why not do something fun like us?