My first year as a librarian, I totally missed Read Across America Day. Before coming here I spent the better part of my career teaching high school with a few stints in middle school. Dr. Seuss wasn’t a part of my regular English curricula at those levels. I started my job in January and was more focused on learning the ropes of a new school and giving the library’s physical space more of my personal touch than I was on themes and events. When March 2 rolled around teachers throughout my school paraded up the hallway in their best Dr. Seuss outfits. Kids walked out of their classrooms wearing Cat in the Hat hats or Grinch wigs. I felt terrible! Here I was, the new librarian in an awesome elementary school, and I never even acknowledged the day. I vowed not to let that happen again!
The following year I made sure to talk to the kids about the day and to dress in Dr. Seuss attire. We made a craft based on the Sneetches and we read lots of books. The celebration in the library went on for weeks because I continued to use those activities as the kids cycled through their media class. I read as much as I could about Dr. Seuss and discovered titles I never read before. Plus, the App Store had several of Dr. Seuss’ stories in app form with great illustrations and sound effects. That series of lessons and, most especially, the words of Dr. Seuss guided me to think more like an elementary librarian and less like a secondary English teacher. Thanks, Dr. Seuss!
Rather than write about the many glorious books Dr. Seuss created for us (which you probably already know about!) I would rather give some facts that many people may not know about Dr. Seuss. As we celebrate his life and his impact on children’s literature, we can appreciate the man and his work even more by looking at the quirkier side of his life.
Facts About Dr. Seuss to Amaze Your Friends!
- Dr. Seuss’ name is not supposed to rhyme with “goose.” It’s actually pronounced like “voice.” Though I doubt anybody will change the way we’ve been saying it for years!
- As a kid, Ted was notorious for exaggerating stories to his parents. His tall-tales to his dad were the original inspiration for his first book And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street! His family suspected he would one day be a writer.
- Ted studied English at Dartmouth College and then Oxford University, but he decided to focus on his love of drawing instead of becoming a professor.
- Ted became the editor-in-chief of his college’s humor magazine called Jacko. After getting into trouble with the police for drinking alcohol illegally, he was banned from writing for Jacko. But Ted didn’t stop creating articles and art for the magazine. Instead of signing the name Ted Geisel to his work, he used his middle name as a pseudonym: Seuss! Readers and school administrators were none the wiser.
- Ted’s big break came when a bug spray company called Flit tried him to create all their print advertising artwork. But his contract was very strict on what other writing and art he could create outside the company. Ted wanted to write books, but the company said no. But Ted found a loophole in his contract. He was allowed to write books for children, so he did!
- When he wrote his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss wrote over one thousand pages before he was happy with the story. Publisher after publisher turned it down because the story had no moral to it. Ted stood his ground and said that it was OK for kids to read books just for fun. He finally found a publisher in Vanguard Publishing.
- The Cat in the Hat was created to solve a national reading crisis. First graders across the nation reported that reading was boring. The texts teachers used at the time had short choppy sentences with little story to it. Houghton Mifflin asked Dr. Seuss to write a story 1st graders would love, but the story could only contain words from a list of 255 selected by the publisher. Dr. Seuss became very frustrated. He hated all his ideas and was ready to give up. He decided if he could find two words that rhymed on the list of words Houghton Mifflin gave him, he would make the story out of those two words. The two words he found were “cat” and “hat.”
- Teachers didn’t like Dr. Seuss’ books at first. They found them too silly. But bookstores across the nation sold out quickly as soon as copies arrived. Dr. Seuss was a hit!
- Random House books wanted to create an entire series of books for young readers, so they approached Dr. Seuss for help. He recommended three people whose works he had seen before. One was his friend named P.D. Eastman who wrote Are You My Mother? The other was a husband and wife writing team who created a family of talking bears. Their names? Stan and Jan Berenstain. Without Dr. Seuss’ influence, the world may never have know the Berenstain Bears!
- Ted’s final book before he passed away in 1991 was Oh, the Places You’ll Go! For many children the first book they ever own is a Dr. Seuss book. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is given as a gift to many high school and college graduates. So for more people than can be counted, childhood begins and ends with Dr. Seuss.
I am indebted to Dr. Seuss. He heavily influenced my own childhood with characters like the Grinch, the Lorax, the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, Thing 2, the Sneetches, and others. I loved watching the cartoon versions of the books I cherished reading in my bed at night. As an adult, I re-read many of his works even before I became a father. Now that I have children of my own I am happy to share those treasures with them as well.
Dr. Seuss has been gone for nearly 26 years now, but his impact on the lives of children continues. May Dr. Seuss and his works live on forever to lift the hearts and minds of the world’s children!