Last week, March 2, was Dr. Seuss's birthday. He would have been 102. O.K., so who's Dr. Seuss? Most of us just have a casual acquaintance.
Until last week, I had little knowledge of this creative genius. My only concept of the Doctor was the myriad of his volumes in our bookshelf and the countless hours of reading them to the girls.
But let me tell you, Kaitzer would set me straight. In order to commemorate his birthday and celebrate the joy of reading, the National Educational Association established "Read Across America Day." The program has grown nation wide and promotes reading. "Read Across America" is the largest celebration of literacy in America. The premise is to boost children's enthusiasm to read. The research is conclusive ? motivating children to read enhances achievement and creates lifelong successful readers. Children who read do better in school. Period!
The La Canada Unified School District likewise participated in "Read Across America Day." I was to participate in Mr. Burger's sixth-grade class and was to read the "Battle of Thermopylae," the famous last stand of the Spartans against the Persians. Unfortunately, my allotted time conflicted with my teaching schedule. Kaitzer to the rescue!
That afternoon I asked Kaitzer, "How did your reading go in Mr. Burger's class?"
"Great," she said. "I shared my collection of Dr. Seuss books with the children."
"Hmmm! That's kind of juvenile for sixth-graders," I thought. Kaitzer read my mind quicker than a New York minute, which by the way is not that difficult since there isn't really a lot up there to begin with.
Anyway, she remarked, "Dr. Seuss's imagery, metaphors, and melodic literary cadence, not to mention his intricate story lines, are appropriate for people of all ages."
I scratched my head, sort of like Curious George and thought, "What the heck is a melodic literary cadence?"
Kaitzer then intricately explained the fabulous world of Dr. Seuss. I was hooked. I grabbed my computer and headed out for a chocolate and to do this right.
So, I'm sipping on my chocolate, struggling with these thoughts when Jodi Powers walks by and says hello. As we chatted, I mentioned that I was writing about Dr. Seuss and I happened to have his book, "Oh, the Places You'll Go."
Jodie, remarked, "That's one of Mike's favorites; he has a copy at work."
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born March 2, 1904. While attending Dartmouth College, he was the editor of a college publication, but, because of a prank, he was dismissed from the magazine staff.
Unbeknownst to the college administration, he continued to contribute under the name Seuss, his middle name. He attended Oxford with the intent of acquiring a doctorate in literature. Instead of finishing his degree, he married. However, not wanting to disappoint his father, his friends and family called him, Doctor. Thus, he took the pen name of "Dr. Seuss."
As a child, his mother would soothe him to sleep chanting melodic phrases. As an adult, Dr. Seuss credited his mother, "For the rhythms in which I write and the urgency in which I do it."
In 1936, while traveling to Europe and listening to the rhythm of the ship's engines, he came up with "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street." It's about imagination and the possibilities associated with having one.
During WW II, he joined the US Army and was sent to write for Frank Capra's Signal Corps in Hollywood. He won the Legion of Merit for his creative documentaries on the war effort.
In 1954, Life magazine published a report concerning illiteracy among school children. Dr. Seuss's publisher sent him a list of 250 words that he felt were important and asked him to write a book using those words. Nine months later, Dr. Seuss, using 220 of the words given to him, published "The Cat in the Hat."
A friend bet Dr. Seuss $50 that he couldn't write an entire book using only 50 words. The result was "Green Eggs and Ham."
The Greek word, dïéçìá, pronounced 'peeece,' translates to poetry. Its derivative is found in the word creation. The ancients viewed poetry/writing as symbolic to all creation. All nature, all creation is a poem of an endless harmonic ensemble of sounds, grace, harmony, balance, and story. Dr. Seuss knew this and that was his gift.
With a few good books, a little imagination and some time, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"