Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Though his passing has been over 20 years ago, and that is sad indeed, I want to honor Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel on this day, his birthday, and share what impact this wonderful, brilliant man has had on my life. First, here is a very small amount of history of the great, late author and illustrator from Wikipedia.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, published over 60 children’s books over the course of his long career. Though most were published under his well-known pseudonym, Dr. Seuss, he also authored over a dozen books as Theo. LeSieg and one as Rosetta Stone. As one of the most popular children’s authors of all time, Geisel’s books have topped many bestseller lists, sold over 222 million copies, and been translated into more than 15 languages. In 2000, when Publishers Weekly compiled their list of the best-selling children’s books of all time; 16 of the top 100 hardcover books were written by Geisel, including Green Eggs and Ham, at number 4, The Cat in the Hat, at number 9, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, at number 13, and Dr. Seuss’s ABC. In the years following his death in 1991, several additional books based on his sketches and notes were published, including Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! and Daisy-Head Mayzie. Although they were all published under the name Dr. Seuss, only My Many Colored Days, originally written in 1973, was entirely by Geisel.

Wikipedia

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest childhood memories is practicing my reading with many of Dr. Seuss’s books. There were many and I loved them all dearly, but my favorite was, of course, Green Eggs and Ham. Though my artistic abilities, or rather desires, did not come to light until I was in my 30s (see The Artist in Me), when I reminisce those younger years, I remember that the brightly colored pictures are what lured me to know what the words said. It was through his books that I found a love of color as well as a love of reading. I can recall the many coloring books I had and how carefully I colored so they would be as dazzling and happy as the pictures in my favorite books.

One of the things my mother said all the time was that there is always a bright side in any situation. I have found that to be true throughout  my life and one very good example of that involves Dr. Seuss. During some of the darkest days in my marriage to my children’s father, we also had custody of his three children from a previous marriage. My oldest was about four and I was still pregnant with my youngest. Jacob, the oldest of my step-children, was having trouble reading his fourth grade reading assignments. He would read out loud, as it was easier for him, and I would hear not only a very monotone consistency in his voice, but he did not pause for commas or at the end of sentences. He did not enjoy reading and struggled through his required homework every evening, but he was trying. I decided to help in out, but to do so in a way that would not hurt his self-esteem.

I went to his room, sat him down and told him that I needed a huge favor. I said that I had not been reading to Jeremy (my oldest) as much as I should be and just did not have the time. I handed him a stack of about seven Dr. Seuss books and asked him if he would read them to Jeremy and that I would sign his reading slip, confirming that he did indeed read for 20 minutes. I explained to him that he did not have to continue reading the book he chose for his homework because in reading to his brother, he would be reading and that was what mattered. He looked at me like he was waiting for the catch. I assured him that I was serious and that it was very important to me that he help me out.

I explained to Jacob that one of the most important things to do in helping a young child learn how to read was to read to them. I opened one of the books and showed him how I wanted him to read the books. Loooooooong words were to be read drawn out, BIG words were to be said in a loud and deep voice, and little words were to be read in a higher pitch voice, but spoken quietly. I demonstrated and said that this was key in holding Jeremy’s attention and keeping him excited about the story. I asked Jacob if he understood and he shook his head yes. I said to let Jeremy pick which books and then to make the reading as fun as possible, looking surprised or happy or confused or sad depending on what was happening in the story.

Once I had convinced Jacob that he really would be helping me and that he would get full credit for doing his reading homework, he started right away. A few weeks later, I was passing by his bedroom door and could hear Jeremy giggling and Jacob making a big show of the story. I truly hope that my intentions would pan out. They had. Even more than I had expected. I was almost done cooking dinner one night and went to get the children to come to the table. When I reached Jacob’s door, I could not believe my ears! He had, without being told to, picked up the book he was reading before I asked him to help me Jeremy, the one he had struggled to read and was now reading again from where he had left off. His articulation had improved dramatically and as a result, he was reading more smoothly and the hesitation and forced effort seemed to have nearly disappeared.

Just as I had suspected, by incorporating the emphasis that is so strongly integrated in Dr. Seuss’s rhymes and illustrations of the words, into Jacob’s daily reading, had in fact improved his ability to read and much to my surprise, he was reading because he now wanted to. That was not the only proud moment that came out of this adventure. Jacob went on to graduate high school with a 4.0 GPA and is now in the Navy, serving our country. Thank you, Dr. Seuss!

10 responses to “Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

  1. I grew up with Dr. Seuss and still have those childhood books! When I had kids, I bought them their own and we read them all the time!

  2. I enjoyed reading about your personal experience and the wisdom and compassion you showed in the way you chose to support your stepson. That kind of caring goes a long way.

    Thanks for visiting my blog – seems you found quite a few of us who were remembering and appreciating Dr. Seuss!

    • Thank you. Yes, in this case especially. This occurred when he was 9 years old and it carried him through to high school. He just got married a couple months ago and I am eager to see if/when he has children, if he will remember and pass Dr. Seuss onto them. If doesn’t, I will! =)

      -Cindy

    • Hi Louise,

      Thank you. I have often struggled with my parenting, and this particular memory reminds me that I was not all that bad and am still capable of becoming a better mother as I continue to learn and grow. My own two kids are 19 and 14 now and have chosen to live with half-siblings in Washington while I continue my education here in Pennsylvania. I am caught by surprise often when they call and I see that I am still teaching and guiding them, even from a distance. However, one thing I have also learned is that they teach me quite a bit too. For that I am deeply grateful!

      -Cindy

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