By Heather Mullinix
“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”
Those words penned by Dr. Seuss, writer, poet and cartoonist who wrote 46 children’s book during his career, are the inspiration behind Read Across America Day.
Unfortunately, this past Read Across America Day, March 1, was not a school day as snow and severe winter weather threatened our roadways and led to using a cherished snow day Friday. I’m sure, though, all the kids took a few minutes to put away their gadgets and games and get lost in a good book. If not, it’s not too late to get in on the fun because National Reading Month continues all through March!
Parents, it’s a great opportunity to share some of your favorite authors with your kids, help build literacy skills and give a gift that will last a lifetime — a love of reading. Pull out those great Dr. Seuss volumes of Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and more. Watch their eyes get wide as they see the Cat in the Hat get Sally and her brother into all kinds of mischief, reading along with the 236 distinct words and colorful drawings.
Seuss wrote the Cat in the Hat as an example of what reading could offer young readers that classroom primers at the time did not. He had talked about the boring reading that featured kids that never got dirty, never did anything they weren’t supposed to do and never, ever got in trouble. He proposed brighter, livelier books with strange and wonderful animals and children who sometimes might misbehave. He was challenged to write a story that first-grade students couldn’t put down, and given a list of 348 words every six year old should know to use. Nine months later, he accomplished the literary feat, telling a fun and entertaining story with a tiny vocabulary.
It was a hit. And it spawned several more stories featuring the cheerful cat that inevitably brings chaos in his wake. It also launched a series of beginner books, with favorites that includes Green Eggs and Ham and Hop on Pop.
That series also included other popular children’s authors, like Stan and Jan Berestain who penned The Berenstain Bears series.
These were my sister’s and my favorite books as children. She had an entire shelf on her bookcase devoted to the Berenstain Bears and would usually share with me, once I could read on my own. Mom and Dad liked the books because they could usually find one that would speak to a particular behavioral issue — like a baby sister that might make an older sibling feel jealous, a messy room or a schoolyard bully.
And, of course, there’s Shel Silverstein’s quirky poetry. I’m a huge fan. I have been since I was first introduced to the poet and illustrator in the sixth grade, but you certainly don’t have to wait that long to introduce a new generation of fans to the late author. He published Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1874, a delightful collection of poems that feeds the imagination. And, in my opinion, there is no story more heart touching than The Giving Tree. Give it to a new parent and watch them well up with tears.
All of these authors touched my life and challenged my perceptions about the world around me. They built imagination and they let me have adventures with Cats in Hats and elephants and bears and even a Yipiyuk!
You can have those adventures, too, even on a snowy, blustery day, just by picking up a book and reading. The Art Circle Library is back open after reorganizing the collection. There, you can find all kinds of great books for your young readers. Stop by the adult section, as well, and pick up your own adventure this month.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.