If you’re a parent like me, you know that on March 1, 2019, classrooms all over the United States will be celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America Day. I know at my kids’ school, Alcott Elementary, here in Riverside, we have been celebrating all week with everything from crazy dress-up days to Thankful Thursday’s requesting kids write a note to someone they are thankful for. But did you know that Dr. Seuss wrote at least 42 books, worked in advertising, helped the army create films during World War II, and created his own art? I always just picture Cat in the Hat when I personally think of Dr. Seuss or even the Grinch, but while doing some research for this article, I have a new appreciation for Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss.
Now onto the bet. Geisel’s publisher at the time was a man named Bennet Cerf at Random House. He was known for having a great sense of humor, and knowing what a good writer Dr. Seuss was, decided to challenge him to write a book using only 50 words. Yep, Green Eggs and Ham as a result of that bet. Guess how many words it is? I know, I didn’t believe it either. So, I googled it. I know you are saying the words to Green Eggs and Ham right now in your head, aren’t you? It’s okay. I will not eat them in a box, I will not eat them with a fox.
In 1954 a guy named John Hersey wrote an article in Life magazine about the poor literacy in American children. He called out Walt Disney and yes, Dr. Seuss and told them there are not enough easy readers out there for kids and he believed Disney and Seuss could help. So, Geisel’s publishers gave him a list of the top 600 vocabulary words that were recommended by teachers and other literacy experts and asked if he could try and use 250 of them in a new book. After 9 months of working, The Cat in the Hat was created. He used just 236 words in the 1600-word story, but it is still one of the most loved Dr. Seuss books of all time.
My personal favorite, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! It was Dr. Seuss’ last published book in 1990. If you don’t know this one, it talks about the journey of life and its challenges. When my son started Kindergarten, way back in 2002, I had his teacher sign the inside of the book at the end of the year. I had read about someone that had thought about giving this book as a graduation gift from high school. So secretly, I asked each of my son’s teachers to sign his book at the conclusion of each school year. My son never knew I did this. What started out as just a signature, became notes from each teacher and predictions of his future and what it would hold. When I presented the book to him finally at his graduation party, he was stunned. He read it cover to cover with his friends. There they were, eighteen-year-old men, huddled around a Dr. Seuss book fondly remembering each teacher together. Memories came flooding back to handball games and recesses lost to shenanigans and times on the soccer fields. These boys were fortunate to have grown up and graduated together. To this day, it is one of his prized possession. My son, the All-American college athlete treasures his Dr. Seuss book to this day and I will forever be grateful for the role Theodore Geisel played in our family.
So, celebrate today by picking up your favorite Dr. Seuss book and reading it! Whether you have kids or not, reading a Dr. Seuss book is part of childhood!