Monday was “National Read Across America Day.” Communities throughout the country commemorated the birthday of Dr. Seuss and celebrated the joy of reading.
The annual event is the largest celebration of literacy in the country with a 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.
Through reading I’ve traveled the world twice over and met the famous saints and sinners, poets artists, kings, queens, old stars and hopeful beginners. I’ve been where no one has been before, all because I opened a book.
Jennifer Suh, chairwoman of the event and champion of the cause for La Cañada Elementary School, asked if I would be a reader. I found this opportunity fortuitous since I indeed wanted to ride the wave and be part of the nationwide effort . Since my daughter Simone is a sixth-grade student in Ms. Edsey’s class, I was assigned to read there.
A few days prior, Kaitzer mentioned that she had a full library of Dr. Seuss books. That’s kind of juvenile for sixth- graders, I thought to myself.
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 said, “Dr. Seuss’s imagery, metaphors and melodic literary cadence, not to mention his intricate story line, are appropriate for people of all ages.”
I scratched my head, sort of like Curious George does, and thought, “What the heck is a melodic literary cadence?”
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904. While attending Dartmouth College, he was the editor of a college publication. However, he was dismissed from the magazine staff for breaking a law. Unbeknownst to the college administration, he continued to contribute under the name Seuss. Later, he attended Oxford to obtain a doctorate in literature. He never finished, but friends called him “doctor.”
When he was a child, Geisel’s mother would sooth him to sleep chanting melodic phrases. He later credited her for “the rhythms in which I write and the urgency in which I do it.”
While traveling to Europe and listening to the rhythm of the ship’s engines, Geisel came up with the tale, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” It’s about imagination and the possibilities associated with having one.
His publisher later 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 those words, published “The Cat in the Hat.” Then, a friend bet Dr. Seuss $50 that he couldn’t write an entire book using only 50 words. He took on the challenge and the result was “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Although I think Dr. Seuss is a literary genius, I chose not to tell his stories and instead selected two of the greatest mythological heroes of all time. I told the stories of Prometheus the Titian of ancient Greece, and Percival, the greatest knight in King Arthur’s Court.
I arrived at LCE in preparation for my reading. Simone came to escort me to her class. “Daddy, where are your books?” she asked.
“Simone, they’re in my head.”
En route to the classroom she whispered in my ear, “Daddy, don’t embarrass me!”
The Greek word phonetically spelled “peeece” translates as “poetry.” Its derivative is found in the word meaning creation. The ancients viewed reading, poetry and writing as symbolic to all creation. 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 and a little imagination, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.