Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

2 Mar

What better birthday to celebrate in as we count down to World Read Aloud Day! Is there a person who learned to read after 1950 who didn’t grow up on Dr. Seuss books? Or a child who grew up since 1967 who doesn’t define the holiday season by watchingThe Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

Ted Geisel, American writer and cartoonist, at...

But did you also know that he:

  • Wrote for Vanity Fair?
  • Commanded the Animation Department of the U.S. Air Force’s first Motion Picture unit?
  • Inspired with his work two Academy Award-winning films (one animated, one documentary)?
  • Had his first manuscript (And to Think that I Saw it on Mulbery Street) rejected more than 25 times?
  • Worked as a political cartoonist?
  • First used his pseudonym to keep writing when he’d been forced to resign all activities in college?
  • And, most interesting, was commissioned by Houghton Mifflin to pioneer the “early reader” format, writing books that included words from a list of the 250 most important words to learn? This gave birth to The Cat and the Hat, as well as Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish. Each of those books still sells about 500,000 copies a year!

Some of that I knew. Some I learned today as I read several articles and blog posts honoring Theodor Geisel on what would have been his 108th birthday.

What I’d like to add is this: My graduating class at Brown chose for its honorary degree winners cultural icons who had marked our lives. Among these was Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel.  Our beautiful class speaker, Valerie Tutson, brought the house down with her storytelling, bringing Stevie Wonder to tears when she sang to us a reminder to call our family and tell them “I just called to say I love you.” I watched from the balcony as Mr. Geisel handed Mr. Wonder his handkerchief, only to receive it back to wipe his own tears when Valerie ended by telling her family that she’d grown up and found that she “really does like green eggs and ham.” That moment stands out for me, evoking the power of his words to not only teach us, to move us, unite our diverse experiences, and recognize the power of the written and spoken word. The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.~Dr. Seuss

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