Throughout his life, Theodor Seuss Geisel—widely known as Dr. Seuss—created some of the most memorable rhymes and characters in children’s literature. His books have been helping children learn to read for decades and his influence extends across continents. The works of Dr. Seuss are celebrated annually on Read Across America Day, a national event sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) honoring Geisel’s birthday on March 2. The day is dedicated to helping children learn to love reading. Today, Geisel’s work continues to inspire readers and writers of all ages.
Dr. Seuss Is Given a Challenge
Dr. Seuss books have been met with enthusiasm by children, parents, and educators since their initial publication. The author’s passion to get children to read more books began in 1954 following the publication of a Life magazine article about how illiteracy was becoming a problem among schoolchildren across the country. The article suggested children were not encouraged to read because most children’s books were boring. Geisel’s publisher challenged the author to write an interesting children’s book that contained at least two hundred important words every child should know. The result was Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957.
The Cat in the Hat contained pages of rhyming verses that described the misadventures of a brother and sister after they meet a giant, walking, talking, hat-wearing cat who inspires them to turn a rainy day into endless fun. Readers often praised Geisel’s use of wordplay, which engaged readers by being both fun to read and easy to remember. The character of the Cat in the Hat dazzled readers with his strange sayings and uniquely humorous perspective on life. Most importantly, The Cat in the Hat encouraged creativity in readers by urging them to use their imagination. The book became one of Geisel’s most famous creations and continues to influence young readers decades after its release.
A Day of Reading
Dr. Seuss books have played an important role in preschool and elementary education throughout the years. In honor of Geisel’s legacy, the NEA holds their annual Read Across America Day on the author’s birthday, March 2, or whatever school day falls closest to that date. The day’s events normally include adults reading a children’s book aloud to students as they follow along. Readers can choose from a number of books, but many often pick a featured Dr. Seuss book to read to the children. Geisel’s books combine entertaining wordplay with moral lessons that appeal to both educators and students. Some of the most often read Dr. Seuss books include Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
A Critical Understanding of Dr. Seuss’s Appeal
Apart from their role in childhood education, Dr. Seuss books have also been analyzed on an academic level for their mass appeal. Researchers have studied why Dr. Seuss books have remained so popular after so many years. Some scholars believe it is due to the type of poetic meter that Geisel used to tell his stories, which gives the books a solid rhythm and humorous effect.
Other experts turn to a discussion of theme when trying to understand the appeal of Dr. Seuss books. Some writers believe that Geisel’s repeated call to awaken the imagination is what continuously attracts readers. The Cat in the Hat is a straightforward example of this theme. Other examples include Green Eggs and Ham, which is all about getting someone to try something he has never tried before.
Several of the author’s stories involve a young person trying to win the approval of an authority figure, such as a parent. This had led some critics to argue that there is a psychological aspect to Dr. Seuss’s appeal, as many kids can relate to desiring the praise and attention of a parent. Many of Geisel’s books also detail a young person’s frustration with adult rules, which is another draw for young readers.