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Dr. Seuss & Read Across America Day

(by Jonathan Sprout)


            Read Across America Day was established in 1987 on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2.  Some have extended Read Across America Day into the month of March as National Reading Month. Although it was originally meant to be more about reading than about Dr. Seuss, it’s a perfect time to honor the life and accomplishments of the good Dr.

            Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), known as Dr. Seuss, is the most popular and influential name in children's literature. His 60 books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and have sold more than 222 million copies. Sixteen of them are among the top 100 best-selling children’s hardcover books of all time. His lifelong war on illiteracy earned him two Emmys®, a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Eleven children's television specials, a Broadway musical and several feature-length movies have sprung from his books.

            He was a painfully shy, light-hearted defender of children’s rights who revolutionized the way children can learn to read. He demonstrated that words are fun and reading is joyful.

            This funny, hardworking, brilliant author and artist experienced more than a few highs and lows. As a 14 year old boy scout, he’d earned the chance to be on a stage and receive a medal from President Theodore Roosevelt. This moment of triumph turned into a disaster for young Geisel when Roosevelt ran out of medals. The only boy on stage not to get a medal, Geisel was whisked off stage by a nervous scoutmaster. Possibly the triggering event for a lifelong case of stage fright.

            At Dartmouth College, Ted, as he was known by his friends, was voted “least likely to succeed.”

            His first children’s book, To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, almost never happened. One day, after having shopped the book around to various publishers and receiving 27 or so rejections, he was walking home down Madison Avenue in New York City. He was bringing the manuscript home to burn it when Ted chanced upon a college classmate who had just three hours earlier been made children’s editor for Vanguard Press. He soon signed Ted, who later liked to joke that if he’d been walking on the other side of the street, he probably would have ended up in the dry cleaning business.

            He wrote The Cat in the Hat when he accepted a challenge to write a story first graders couldn’t put down using only 250 words. It took him a year.

            After that success, his editor made him a bet he couldn’t write another great story, this time using only 50 special words. It took Ted another year, but he won that bet with his bestselling book, Green Eggs and Ham.

            The Lorax was Ted’s favorite Dr. Seuss book.

            He met seven United States presidents.

            Most of Ted’s books were written in anapestic tetrameter (da-da-dum-da-da-dum, da-da-dum-da-da-dum).

            On a birthday near the end of Ted’s life, he received tens of thousands of birthday cards from all over the world. The post office in La Jolla, CA had to make special trips to dump sacks and sacks of letters at his house.

            He said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” So, if you don’t mind, spread a little Seusspiration. Share this with your friends.

            You can find my song, Dr. Seuss, on my American Heroes #4 CD. I had a lot of fun with this song, making it as Seussian as possible.  You will not recognize my voice!

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