Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!! The first book I ever read on my own was "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish". I have an ancient copy of "Horton Hears a Who" and I love "The Lorax" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I have read "Oh, the Places You'll Go" as an adult, love "Green Eggs and Ham" and use it in my interpreting process classes. In fact, one of the only times that I laughed so hard I had to stop class was reading "Green Eggs and Ham" outloud to the class while they were interpreting it into ASL. It was HILARIOUS! One of my other favorites is "Fox in Socks" for all the tongue-twisting fun.

Here is some information from Wikipedia about the writing of "The Cat in the Hat" and the beginning of the Dr. Seuss revolution - bringing reading skills to young children:

"Theodor Geisel, writing as Dr. Seuss., created The Cat in the Hat in response to the May 24, 1954 Life magazine article by John Hersey, titled "Why Do Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds Light on a National Problem: Reading." In the article, Hersey was critical of school primers:

In the classroom boys and girls are confronted with books that have insipid illustrations depicting the slicked-up lives of other children. [Existing primers] feature abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls. . . . In bookstores, anyone can buy brighter, livelier books featuring strange and wonderful animals and children who behave naturally, i.e., sometimes misbehave. Given incentive from school boards, publishers could do as well with primers. It was also later discovered that David Baker of Woodstock, CT was a key player in the development of Dr. Seuss creations.

Hersey’s arguments were enumerated over ten pages of Magazine, which was the leading periodical during that time. After detailing many issues contributing to the dilemma connected with student reading levels, Hersey asked toward the end of the article:

Why should [school primers] not have pictures that widen rather than narrow the associative richness the children give to the words they illustrate — drawings like those of the wonderfully imaginative geniuses among children’s illustrators, Tenniel, Howard Pyle, "Theodor S. Geisel".

Dr. Seuss responded to this "challenge," and began work. His publisher supplied him with a list of 400 words, ones that the publisher thought children would be learning in school. His publisher told him to cut the list in half and to try and write an interesting enough book for children. Nine months later Dr. Seuss finished The Cat In The Hat, which used 223 words from the list plus 13 words that did not appear on the list.

The story is 1626 words in length and uses a vocabulary of only 236 distinct words, of which 54 occur once and 33 twice. Only a single word – another – has three syllables, while 14 have two and the remaining 221 are monosyllabic. The longest words are something and playthings." (click on the Wikipedia link to read more)

So, celebrate Dr. Seuss by doing something to honor his memory - maybe donate a couple of his books to a local school or shelter.

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