Visit Seussville & read Oh, The Places You’ll Go─it’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday!

March 2dr seuss 1 is an important day for reading ─ it’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday! Seuss would be 111 had he lived. The good news is, he does live – in his books, art work and at Seussville, official home of Dr. Seuss on the Web.[1] Seuss’s birthday has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association. School, library, and book store events are planned throughout the country to read one of Seuss’ books ─ in 2015 the book is Oh, The Places You’ll Go. Read Across America hopes that 45 million people of all ages will take time to read a book today to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. What a tremendous legacy.

Most parents, educators and children know the biggest Seuss bestsellers ─ The Cat In The Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, Horton Hatches the Egg, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. But do they know that writer and cartoonist, Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated 46 books for children. And that he’s not done yet because a new book is coming out this July (What Pet Should I Get?), thanks to manuscripts and illustrations Dr. Seuss’ wife found while cleaning his office after his death.

You have to wonder if the phenomenon of Dr. Seuss as we know it ─ the fast-paced, rhyming stories leaping to life through whimsical characters─ would have happened without a “challenge” that was not really his own making. He had already published his first book for children (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street) at the age of 33. Then he moved on to publishing books for older children. When Seuss was 51, a publisher asked him to write a book to help children learn how to read. But there was a catch ─ they would give him a list of just 300 words that most first-graders know, and he would have to write the book using only those words.[2] Seuss wasn’t sure he could do it, but two words jumped out at him as he looked over the list ─ “cat” and “hat.” So, Seuss took up the challenge and spent nine months writing The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957 when he was 53. While the book is 1,702 words long, it only uses 220 different words. Immediately, parents and teachers began using it to teach children to read, and within the first year of publication, The Cat in the Hat was selling an impressive 12,000 copies a month![3]

These “word” challenges continued for Dr. Seuss. Just a few years later, Seuss’s publisher bet him $50.00 that he could not write a book using only 50 different words. Seuss won the bet ─ Green Eggs and Ham published in 1960 uses exactly 50 different words ─ and only one of those words has more than one syllable (the word “anywhere”).[4]

dr seuss 2Clearly, Dr. Seuss enjoyed the challenges. And now we can enjoy the fantastic books, characters, illustrations, and more recently, Seuss “electronic” world at the Seussville website! If you haven’t visited the latter, check out this animated world complete with sound effects, maps, interactive games and activities kids and adults alike will really enjoy. I especially like scrolling through the pictures of different Dr. Seuss characters and having access to printable resources like a birthday certificate you can fill in with your child’s name and interactive activities (e.g., how many fish you can count in a row, characters you can color in).

So, on this 111th birthday celebration, big thanks to you, Dr. Seuss, for the many gifts you have bequeathed to younger and older children ─and adults alike. I count among these gifts many quotes that ring so true ─ here are my favorites:

  • You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.
  • Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!
  • Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
  • You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.[5]

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[1] Through the wonders of technology, Seussville is brought to life by Random House Children’s Books and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.: http://www.seussville.com/?home#/home/

[2] By comparison, picture books for children up to age 8 average 1,000 words (though many books are shorter); easy readers for ages 5-9 are 50-2,500 words, depending on the publisher and level of reader; chapter books (short novels for ages 7-10 typically are 10,000-12,000 words. Info taken from: <www.writing-world.com/children/backes1.shtml>

[3] Info from The Writer’s Almanac (produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media), March 2, 2015.

[4] Info from The Writer’s Almanac (produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media), March 2, 2015.

[5] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/drseuss109092.html#Rc46uM7BhBYLj3MC.99

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